In Support of Independent Legal Representation

“The legitimate rights of the accused should be protected and fulfilled. So too the rights of the community.”

– Victorian Law Reform Commission, 2021

Australia has not been immune from calls to strengthen its criminal justice system. Over the past seven years, multiple separate inquiries have considered matters affecting complainants of sexual violence and their recourse to justice. And yet, knowing that we rely on victims to report crime and cooperate as a witness so that the state may prosecute, our treatment of victims is dramatically behind where it should be.
Independent legal representation has surfaced as a major factor in reducing secondary victimisation and high attrition rates. While often positioned as solely in the interests of the victim, it can support the state’s prosecution efforts and lead to improved substantive justice outcomes. 


This event co-ordinates advocates, lawyers and academics to discuss models of independent legal representation for victims abroad, and how we might apply similar principles in Australia. The discussion will be preceded by a short screening of Suzie Miller’s Prima Facie, a powerful tool to create more developed understanding of our justice system in these contexts.

Friday August 18th @ 12:30pm

Level 1, Law Lounge
New Law Building Annex
Eastern Ave, Camperdown Campus
University of Sydney

Jonathan Doak, Professor of Criminal Justice and Associate Dean for Research at Nottingham Law School, paraphrasing John Spencer:

“A fair trial does not mean a trial which is free from all possible detriment or disadvantage to the accused.”

Tessa is a thoroughbred. A young, brilliant barrister who loves to win. She has worked her way up from working class origins to be at the top of her game; defending; cross examining and lighting up the shadows of doubt in any case. An unexpected event forces her to confront the lines where the patriarchal power of the law, burden of proof and morals diverge.

After a sold out London season, Jodie Comer, Emmy and Bafta Award-winning star of TV’s Killing Eve, makes her Broadway debut in Suzie Miller’s ‘Prima Facie’, first staged at Sydney’s Griffin Theatre.

Written by Suzie Miller
Directed by Justin Martin

Associate Professor of Law Karen O’Connell:

“The gap between the two worlds of meaning in Prima Facie needs to be closed so that women’s experiences become the stuff of which law is made.”

Michael O’Connell AM APM

Michael O’Connell AM APM is a consulting victimologist, a member of the volunteer international faculty of Victimology and serves as a volunteer expert on crime victims’ rights with the UN.

From 2006 until mid-2018, Michael served as the inaugural Commissioner for Victims’ Rights, South Australia.  During these terms, he took concrete steps (including engaging legal counsel) to strengthen victims’ participatory rights, and he co-chaired the National Victims of Crime Working Group that formulated Australia’s first national framework on victims’ rights and victim assistance (which the Attorneys-General of Australia endorsed in 2013) and produced guidelines for assisting Australians as victims of terrorism overseas (which the Attorneys-General of Australia endorsed in 2018). 

Before his appointment as commissioner, he served as the state’s first Victims of Crime Co-ordinator and while employed as a police officer he was appointed the state’s first Victim Impact Statement Co-ordinator.

Although semi-retired, Michael continues to advocate locally, nationally and internationally for a fairer and safer justice for victims and survivors of crime.

Associate Professor Kerstin Braun

Kerstin Braun is an Associate Professor in the School of Law and Justice at the University of Southern Queensland, where she is involved in teaching criminal law and procedure. She completed her Ph.D and LL.M at The University of Queensland.

Kerstin’s research interests lie in the area of criminal law and procedure with an emphasis on how the law relates to vulnerability. In her PhD research Kerstin analysed the role of victims in criminal procedure in Germany and Australia in relation to participation in light of the 1985 UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power. She is the author of several articles in high-impact Australian and international journals and chapters in edited book collections, which ponder the parameters of victim participation in inquisitorial and adversarial systems. Her monograph Victim Participation Rights-Variation Across Criminal Justice Systems (Palgrave, 2019) was awarded the 2020 American Society of Criminology, Division of Victimology Robert Jerin Book of the Year Award.

Prior to commencing work in academia, Kerstin practiced law as an Associate at the Berlin office of Baker & McKenzie, Germany. She tutored and guest lectured criminal law and procedure, criminology and criminal justice at The University of Queensland (2011-2014) and is a visiting lecturer in the University of Bonn’s foreign law program.

Eleanor Danks

Eleanor is an advocate for transformative models of justice that view harm through an anti-colonial and anti-patriarchal lens. Using her experience as a survivor of sexual violence, her training in somatic psychotherapy, and her experience and training as a lawyer, she aims to help people understand the shortcomings of our punitive legal system and to see that there are more trauma-informed and holistic ways available for how we deal with harm.

As a lawyer, Eleanor has experience in the refugee sector, community legal centres, with First Nations communities, and in the criminal justice system. However, it was her experience of going through the legal system as a survivor of intimate partner sexual violence at the same time as working at the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions that solidified her belief that our criminal justice system is letting down not only survivors, but offenders and the community as a whole.

In 2022 Eleanor gave a TedX talk titled ‘Transformative Justice Principles to Reclaim Humanity’, and is now working towards creating deep systemic change so that we can finally see an end to sexual violence.

Sarah Rosenberg

Sarah Rosenberg is the Director and Co-Founder of With You We Can, a national resource demystifying the police and legal processes for victims of sexual violence while working to improve them. Sarah connects advocates, experts and services across the sector to amplify the work of others with her resource and encourage collaboration. Aside from using her lived experience in this way, Sarah is Impact & Evaluation Officer at 10×10 Philanthropy, and Head of Policy & Research at Run For It Australia.

With us you can be heard 

With You We Can cultivate the courage to speak up