Applications for this PhD have now closed.
Location Griffith University, Griffith Criminology Institute
App. deadline 02/10/2018
  • Please enquire for further details
  • Scholarship available
Eligibility Open to international applicants

Barriers preventing access to justice for Indigenous people in criminal law contexts

Griffith University hosts one of the largest, most vibrant, and high-performing criminology research communities in the world.  At the Griffith Criminology Institute (GCI) internationally-renowned scholars are collaborating in a broad range of areas to produce cutting edge knowledge that helps create safe, just, well-governed and equitable societies. Our research aims to address the major challenges that confront society and is organised around themes and projects which currently include: violence prevention, life course studies, prevention science, policing, corrections, innovative justice, procedural justice, vulnerable families, prosecutions, justice in the Asia-Pacific, investigative interviewing and countering violent extremism.

Prospective Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students are invited to apply for a PhD Scholarship with the Griffith Criminology Institute. Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Stipend Scholarship, Griffith University Postgraduate Research Scholarship and Griffith University Indigenous Australian Postgraduate Research Scholarship applications are currently open, closing Tuesday 2 October 2018. These Scholarship opportunities each provide a living allowance of approximately $27,082 (2018 rate, indexed annually) per annum. Tuition Scholarships are also available for international HDR candidates.

How to Apply

Prospective students should follow the process for submitting an online Scholarship application outlined on the Griffith University website;

GCI Scholarship Top-up Funding

To complement the Scholarships above, GCI is offering up to 5 Top-up Scholarships each valued at $6,000 per annum, paid in addition to the usual living allowance. Applicants must meet the University’s selection criteria for entry into the PhD programme and be awarded a living allowance Scholarship to qualify for the extra GCI Top-up funding.

All students who apply for a Scholarship with GCI will be considered for top-up funding. A pre-formulated project is outlined below and additional projects are outlined in this document: Students may also undertake any other HDR project within the Institute. All Scholarship applications will be considered via the usual round assessment process and top-ups will be awarded to the highest ranked GCI candidates in the Order of Merit.

Students must contact the supervisor or supervisory team by early-September 2018 to discuss the project and develop a research proposal for inclusion with the Scholarship application. Contact details for the supervisory teams of pre-formulated projects are provided below and students may contact our members directly to discuss projects and supervisory arrangements.

Other GCI PhD Scholarships and Top-ups

Additionally, GCI is proud to support the Tony Fitzgerald Top-up Scholarship, and the Nina Westera Scholarship in Adult Investigative Interviewing. Please see the following links for further information regarding these Scholarships:

Project Title:

Barriers preventing access to justice for Indigenous people in criminal law contexts

Supervisory Team:

Professor Elena Marchetti (

Elena Marchetti is an internationally leading researcher focused on interactions between Indigenous people and justice systems, Indigenous courts and justice practices, innovative evaluations of Indigenous justice programs and Indigenous methodologies.

Professor Janet Ransley (

Janet Ransley is the Director of the Griffith Criminology Institute and widely respected as a scholar and leader in criminal justice education across Griffith University as well as across the international field of Criminology. She has led a number of industry funded research projects with policing organisations and related justice agencies and has been Chief Investigator on several Australian Research Council and Criminology Research Council grants.

Professors Marchetti and Ransley have co-published several articles and chapters together and between them have supervised 15 students to completion.

An ECR associate supervisor may also be recruited to provide an opportunity for supervision mentoring and development.

Project Description:

Aims and Background: This project will focus on barriers that restrict Indigenous people accessing justice in Australia in criminal justice contexts. Despite reform attempts over the last 25 years, Indigenous people generally, and young people in particular, continue to be incarcerated at ever-increasing rates. Numerous inquiries over the last 12-18 months have addressed aspects of this problem, including those into the NT Don Dale detention centre, Queensland’s youth detention system, and the Law Council of Australia’s Justice Project. Governments around Australia have introduced various policy innovations, including specialist courts and diversion programs, but their impact is disputed and often their funding is precarious.

For this project, the successful student will work with the supervisory team to tailor a research program that will examine one or more aspects of this problem. Possible projects include:

  • Why are so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being sentenced for breach of bail? According to a recent report prepared by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander offenders make up 26.1% of all offenders sentenced for a breach of bail offence as their most serious offence over an 11 year period in Queensland, which is considerably higher than the proportion of all sentenced offenders over that same time period who identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders are more highly over-represented in these statistics than males.  It is unclear why this is the case and in particular why this is so for females.  We know that there may be a range of reasons why this is happening but unless we understand this better, we cannot enact laws or introduce policies that provide Indigenous offenders with better access to justice. Indeed the ALRC’s Pathways to Justice report encouraged governments to look at developing a holistic package for bail law reform. The project would result in proposals for policy and law reform.
  • The need for and efficacy of Youth Murri Courts – The Youth Murri Courts were operating alongside each Adult Murri Court in Queensland when the Murri Courts were first established. However, in 2012 they were defunded, along with the Adult Murri Courts. When funding was reinstated in 2016, it was only for the Adult Courts. Despite this Youth Murri Courts are still operating on an informal basis in some areas, including Brisbane. This PhD project would look at the use of youth or children’s Indigenous sentencing courts as a tool for increasing access to justice for young people, specifically focusing on their historical and continued use in Queensland.
  • It has long been acknowledged that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need access to interpreter services when appearing before the criminal (or in that matter, civil) justice system.  However, we have little knowledge of how often this occurs and whether interpreter services are adequate, particularly in more urban areas.  A PhD project could study the use of interpreter services across Queensland and possibly in other states (such as the Northern Territory) to determine whether such a service is providing better access to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  

Research Plan: The research plan will vary depending on the project chosen, however any of these projects will likely used a mixed methods approach incorporating predominantly qualitative data collection via interviews, focus groups and documentary analysis, complemented by the analysis of administrative data where appropriate. For any project, research will be conducted within the developing frameworks of Indigenous Methodologies that give due weight to Indigenous forms of knowledge.

Timetable: Prof Marchetti has excellent contacts throughout the Qld justice system both due to her research history and her role on Qld’s Sentencing Advisory Council, and this will assist the student to access data and stakeholders. Year 1 of any of the projects is likely to focus on reviewing the current state of knowledge in the area and developing appropriate methodology. Year 2 will be devoted largely to data collection and year 3 to analysis and write-up.

Other Important information:

The successful applicant will join an innovative team of researchers at the Griffith Criminology Institute undertaking research on Indigenous Justice.

As a doctoral student, you will develop expertise in cutting edge criminology, gain experience in research design and methods, and produce insights that may lead to improved environmental and social outcomes in practice.

Applicants should be available to start in early 2019 and have the following attributes:

  • An undergraduate degree with Class I Honours in an appropriate discipline (such as criminology, law, legal studies, environmental science, the humanities, social sciences, or some combination of these areas).

Please Note: Should this listing mention details of an available scholarship, it is your responsibility to confirm the specifics with the university / institute prior to applyiing. Terms and conditions are in some cases subject to change and are not always reflected immediately within listings.

See our full disclaimer

Further Information / Application Enquiries

Prof Elena Marchetti