2011 Quentin Bryce Law Doctoral Scholarship recipient
Elyse is a graduate of UTS with a first class honours degree in law (2009). Until commencing her full-time doctoral research this year, Elyse has been working as a solicitor with the NSW Crime Commission. It was her work with the Crime Commission which led Elyse to identify her research topic.
During her undergraduate studies, Elyse undertook an exchange program at the University of Ottawa, Canada and has continued to study French as an ongoing interest. She has also worked as an ESL teacher.
Elyse has also been engaged as teaching fellow in the Law Faculty.
Research Topic Elyse’s research topic examines ‘offensive language’ and its place in criminal law. During her work as a solicitor, Elyse observed that the majority of offensive language charges in NSW, brought under the Summary Offences Act 1988, were based on language directed at, or used in the presence of, police officers. In addition, it appears that Aboriginal people are disproportionately represented in relation to offensive language charges.
However, to date there has been little research on the nature of offensive language, and why language is seen as being offensive in certain contexts or places. The offensive language provisions are directed at the use of offensive language in public places. Elyse’s research will examine the impact of these sanctions on indigenous and marginalised communities for whom public space may be also their ‘private space’. Elyse will also draw upon linguistic theories in order to challenge the law’s assumption that offensiveness can be objectively determined from the viewpoint of the so-called “reasonable, fair-minded” person. Elyse will also undertake field work in relation to her research, including conducting interviews and surveys of police officers and aboriginal community liaison officers and observing local court offensive language cases.
Real World Outcomes Elyse hopes that her research will produce a better understanding of the role of, and necessity for, sanctions on offensive language and provide a more nuanced basis for police and judicial responses. She would also hope that her research will provide a better understanding of the meaning of ‘public space’ within certain communities, and that this too will inform the law’s understanding of what is ‘offensive’.