Courthouse design principles to dignify spaces for indigenous users: Preliminary observations

Thalia Anthony, Elizabeth Grant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Historically, Australian court architecture layout, design and details are intimately tied to the physical aspects of British imperial institutions. Displaying the visual features of the Empire's institutions has the effect of alienating Indigenous people within courts. This is compounded by design that is oblivious to the needs of Indigenous users and consequently places these users in situations that threaten their privacy, safety and wellbeing. This article contends that architectural design that seeks to accommodate Indigenous cultural and socio-spatial needs brings into sharp relief the barriers and harms otherwise confronting Indigenous people in courts. This article discusses three court complexes designed in collaboration with Indigenous communities to accommodate Indigenous connections to the environment surrounding the courthouse and to enhance access to justice. Indigenous collaborations in the design of the Indigenous-inclusive court complexes at Port Augusta (South Australia), Kalgoorlie and Kununurra (Western Australia) produced spatially distinct courthouses that eschew some historical court design principles and attempt to introduce features relevant to local Indigenous nations. This illustration essay discusses the emergence of Indigenous design principles that may inform courthouse redesign, the application of some of these principles in new courthouse designs and the need for local Indigenous oversight in the design processes. It provides a framework for further research into how Indigenous architectural collaborations in courthouse designs may promote safer and fairer environments for Indigenous court users. It also raises some potential disjuncture between court design and use of court space that may undermine the vision embedded in cultural design principles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-59
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal for Court Administration
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


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