Bond University

Article Title

Thinking Culture in Legal Education


Australia is a polyethnic society formed by the processes of colonisation and immigration. It has become a commonplace to say that we live in a “multicultural society”, yet contemporary Australia could more properly be characterised as “a society with a multicultural population, regulated and governed by a monocultural power structure”. One aspect of that power structure is the legal system, and the gap between a monocultural legal system and a diverse population has been the subject of commentary for over thirty years. This commentary has highlighted issues of access and equity, especially the linguistic barriers to access and general issues of cross cultural communication, with some regard to those areas where the cultural underpinnings of law acquire most saliency: family law, criminal law and, to a lesser extent, contract law. It has been recognised that law schools and the traditional law curriculum must bear part of the blame for the ongoing failure of the legal system to respond to issues of cultural diversity. One response has been to advocate cross cultural awareness education which focusses on intercultural communicative competence, ethnographic thumbnail sketches or “case studies” of migrant “communities”, and an examination of the law’s tolerance of diversity through, say, formal anti-discrimination or equality provisions.