Just Hearing, commissioned by Canberra Community Law in partnership with Legal Aid ACT, is an innovative educational initiative to help service providers in the justice system to work better with people who are experiencing mental distress. Using an interactive model known as Forum Theatre, Just Hearing is a 90-minute performance that explores issues faced by people with lived experience of severe mental health challenges and their interactions with the legal system.
On the 22nd of March, 2023 delegates to the National Community Legal Centres Conference at the Grand Chancellor Hotel in Hobart will watch a short play where a person with lived experience of mental health challenges walks into a solicitor’s office needing legal advice. Over the course of the appointment, it is revealed that the legal system is as complicated to understand as is the mental health system. It does not end well. The play is then started again and audience members are offered the opportunity to yell ‘Stop’, replace on of the actors on stage, and improvised a better outcome.
Just Hearing is a three-year project with short performance seasons in October and March each year, until March 2025. The project is funded by the Australian Government through the National Legal Assistance Partnership. It is a closed performance for conference delegates but with touring capacity.
Following the launch of Canberra Community Law’s Mental Health Justice Clinic in October 2022, at which Just Hearing was also premiered, feedback was overwhelmingly positive. One audience member stated:
“I have two decades experience as a lawyer supporting those most vulnerable. I found the performance honest, genuine, moving and most importantly of educational value to community and professionals alike. Incredibly well done, I’m a huge fan!”