Judicial Diversity in Australia: A Roadmap for Data Collection

Professor Brian Opeskin and Professor Sharyn Roach Anleu2023

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Since 2000, the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration (AIJA) has collected and published annual statistics on the gender of Australian judges and magistrates. In 2022, the AIJA commissioned this report to investigate whether its Judicial Gender Statistics reporting remains fit for purpose. The drivers for change include the growing understanding that gender is not a binary concept (as has been assumed in the statistics to date), and that there are many dimensions to judicial diversity that extend beyond gender. Both issues would require a change in the methodology of data collection— from one in which researchers collect data about judicial officers who are uninvolved in the process, to one in which judicial officers self-identify their diversity characteristics through a carefully constructed survey. The review provides an opportunity to ensure the data collected—which has evolved over its lifetime—meets standards of data integrity through its accuracy, completeness, and consistency across Australian jurisdictions.

The Final Report affirms that diversity is an important quality of the judiciary. It helps to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice by having a body of judges and magistrates that better reflects the heterogeneity of the community they serve. It gives courts greater legitimacy, and thus helps citizens to accept the courts’ decision-making authority even when they disagree with outcomes. It fosters different perspectives, experiences, and approaches to decision making, which promote better quality adjudication. It also serves as a symbolic statement that historical barriers to the appointment of judicial officers from non-traditional backgrounds are in decline. However, greater judicial diversity can be achieved only with reliable information about the composition of the judiciary, which can be used to underpin evidenced, based reforms to policies and practices.

The AIJA is very grateful for the clear and compelling analysis undertaken by the authors, Professor Brian Opeskin and Professor Roach Anleu and very pleased to present this report.

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