The Future Of series asks UOW experts and researchers a set of five questions to gain some insight into the future states of our lives, our communities, and the world.
Associate Professor Julia Quilter from UOW's School of Law specialises in research and teaching on criminal law and criminal justice policy and reform.
What are you researching or working on in 2018?
I have a number of current research projects in criminal law and criminal justice.
One of the most interesting projects is a collaborative project funded by an ARC Linkage Grant which addresses the ‘Criminalisation of Poverty and Homelessness’. The project will be undertaken in partnership with researchers at three other universities and community legal centres around the country. The project aims to better understand the lived experience of homelessness and contact with the criminal justice system and will produce recommendations for law reform and changes to police practice.
I am also researching alcohol-related violence with a specific focus on the operation of recently enacted ‘One Punch Laws’. This project traces the prosecutions of one-punch homicides as they move through the criminal justice system. In a context where my previous research has questioned the need for these new offences, my focus is on assessing whether these laws have achieved their stated purpose and/or whether they are having other unintended effects, particularly in relation to domestic homicides and fatal violence in Indigenous communities.
A third project addresses the hidden punitiveness of criminal punishment in the form of the fine. This little researched form of punishment actually has major impacts on large numbers of people particularly people experiencing socio-economic disadvantage, Indigenous and young people.
What are some of the most innovative or exciting things expected to emerge from your field of expertise over the next few years?
One of the most exciting developments in my field is the emergence of research and scholarship on the concept of criminalisation. Criminalisation refers to the deployment of the criminal law (broadly defined) as a public policy tool to address an identified harm or risk – encompassing the creation and enforcement of criminal offences, the punishment of detected transgressions, and investing police and other state agencies with coercive powers for crime prevention. Scholars in a number of countries including in Australia are developing theoretical and empirical frameworks for better understanding how and why certain harms and risks are criminalised and with what effects.
What are some of the things readers should be wary of over the next few years?
One of the challenges for researchers in criminal law and criminal justice is to come up with new and effective ways of engaging in policy debates and influencing law reform directions. There is evidence that some of the traditional mechanisms used by scholars and other advocates struggle to achieve traction in the political environment, particularly where ‘law and order’ imperatives are dominant. One of the promising things about the new criminalisation research is that it is heavily focused on producing new strategies for improving the quality of criminal law making.
Where do opportunities lie for people thinking about a career in this field?
There are multiple ways in which people with an interest in criminal justice matters can pursue promising and valuable careers. Legal practice as a criminal law specialist remains a really important career, and there are lots of opportunities for young lawyers to work in different organisations in urban and rural settings including Legal Aid, Director of Public Prosecutions, Aboriginal Legal Service, Crown Solicitors Office as well as private practice. In addition, there are also many career paths in policy or academic research.
What’s the best piece of advice you can offer our readers based on your expertise?
I would encourage young people to see the value of a period of work in a rural or remote location anywhere in Australia. It can be a really fulfilling experience and one where you obtain a greater level of responsibility and experience compared to jobs in the major cities. Finding a mentor and a network of friends and colleagues is also an important part of making your way after graduation.
For more from Associate Professor Julia Quilter you can visit her UOW Scholars profile
You can also watch her TEDx talk "When is criminal law the answer?"