International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 3, No 2 (1996)

A different story: narrative versus 'question and answer' in Aboriginal evidence

Michael Cooke
Issued Date: 1 May 2013


The question and answer (QjA) interview style, typical in police interviews of suspects and in the courtroom examination of witnesses, presents serious difficulties to those for whom the QJA format is unfamiliar or alien. In the case of Aboriginal people from remote communities in the northern regions of Australia, this difficulty is compounded by communication problems when interviews are conducted in English without an interpreter's assistance. Such evidence is usually marred by frequent instances of gratuitous concurrence and 'scaffolding'. In this paper, sections of transcript of both the police interview and courtroom testimony are analysed to highlight the communication difficulties that many Aboriginal people experience in a QJA interview compared to when they are permitted to tell their own story.

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DOI: 10.1558/ijsll.v3i2.273


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