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Sophie Trevitt
Australian National University (ANU)

Could the plummeting confidence in political institutions open the door to a more engaged civic polity and a thickening of the rule of law?

In Australia there is a cultural aversion for lawyers, practitioners, judicial officers to be seen as ‘political’ – notwithstanding the fact that the judiciary is the third arm of the Westminster system and the interpretation, application and enforcement of law is inherently political. This has not lead to an apolitical legal profession; it has created a conservatiave one which relies on maintaining the status quo to create the illusion of neutralitity. This entrenches power structures, it reinforces and promulgates hegemonic cultural beliefs & values and it resists transparency and self scrutiny.

As confidence in political decision making, and the institutions of democracy, falls; more is being asked of the legal profession. Royal Commissions are being called for at unprecedented rates, public demands are being made for legal remedies to prevent specific injustices (e.g. the deportation of the Tamil family from Biloela) and the law is being invoked as a tool with which politicians can be held to account, and democracy can be forced back into an intelligible and trustworthy shape.

Can the end of politics as we know it be the beginning of a more robust, accountable, community focused and rights-driven rule of law?

Sophie has been living and working in Alice Springs with children in contact with the criminal justice system. While she has worked across many areas of civil law, her focus has been on the treatment of Aboriginal children in detention facilities in Alice Springs and Don Dale and the brutalisation of children by police. Prior to the law, Sophie worked in politics. She has worked at all levels of government and in a range of roles from campaigning, communications to Chief of Staff.

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