7 March 2023
Community Legal Centres NSW is proud to launch Talking justice, a values-based communications guide for community legal centres that provides guidance on.
Words matter when it comes to communicating about justice and injustice. Talking justice provides guidance on using language that is respectful and humanising towards the people we support, reflects our values, boosts understanding of community legal centres, and builds public support for policy and law reform.
Use the ‘people do things’ rule
When describing inequality or barriers to justice, name the source of the problem as specifically as possible. Stating problems without making clear who causes them can reinforce deficit narratives and turn systemic issues into individual failings. Use active voice. Assign an actor and a cause to the problems you describe – this shows a subject, person or thing that acts.
Replace deficit language with strength-based stories
Deficit language – words like “vulnerable” and “disempowered” – can obscure the cause of harm or vulnerability. Tell stories that are grounded in strength, community knowledge, and truth, while recognising the injustices that people face.
Tell our story (never negate)
Begin from the place of truth – say what we are for and what is, rather than what is not. This means not falling into the trap of busting myths.
Be reader-friendly and use plain language
Communicating effectively means adjusting your message to suit your audience. Think about who you want to reach, and what forms of communication will enable those people or communities to understand, participate, and engage.
Tell compelling stories of change
When communicating about policy or law reform, it’s important to be solutions focused. Talk about the outcomes and paint a picture of the future or transformational change that we want.
Tell human stories
Foreground human stories, lived experience, and expertise. Facts, evidence and legal analysis are important, but messages that focus on statistics are dry and difficult to connect to.
Lead with values and visions
Map out the values that underpin your message. Tell stories that activate collective and community strength, rather than individualistic or protective thinking.
Know your audience
One-size-fits-all messages are rarely effective. Our language needs to be tailored to our different audiences, given that the people and organisations we communicate with are diverse. Tailoring our communications means that we can better meet the needs of different groups of people.