The Pinkenba case is important for many reasons: it shows the obvious linguistic manipulation of vulnerable witnesses, highlights the negative consequences for Indigenous Australians in the legal context; moreover, it draws attention to the issues of gratuitous concurrence, and the cultural misunderstanding around silence and eye contact.

However, it also reveals how these issues appear to have been deliberately used against the Aboriginal witnesses in this infamous case.

Diana Eades (2012, pp484-85) describes her alarm at seeing a copy of the handbook that she had written for lawyers (to prevent such cultural miscommunication from occurring) become a weapon used against the Aboriginal witnesses.

It’s terrible to think that the sociolinguistic knowledge  gained through cases such as Rupert Max Stuart’s (Eades1997), and Robyn Kina’s (Eades 1996) was then used against  Aboriginal witnesses in such a callous way.

Here is a link to Diana Eades’ book written around the Pinkenba case. It examines the case in depth, and explores its ongoing affect on the criminal legal system.

It’s an ebook available from the UNE library. If you can’t download it all, you can download it a chapter at a time.


Simon McDonald



Eades, D. (1996). Legal recognition of cultural differences in communication: The case of Robyn Kina. Language & Communication16(3), 215-227.

Eades, D. (1997). Language in court: the acceptance of linguistic evidence about Indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system. Australian Aboriginal Studies, (1), 15.

Eades, D. (2012). Communication with Aboriginal Speakers of English in the Legal Process. Australian Journal of Linguistics32(4), 473-489.


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