Smarter data: The use and utility of administrative data in Victorian Courts and Tribunals

Smarter data: the use and utility of administrative data in Victorian courts and tribunals is the second report in the data mapping project. This report focuses on the administrative data collected by courts and tribunals. 

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with staff from five Victorian courts and tribunals about the data they collect and use for civil matters. We also reviewed documentation supplied by participants and publicly available documents, such as annual reports and strategic plans. Australian and international literature was also reviewed to identify access to civil justice questions; the role of administrative data in monitoring and answering those questions; and to canvas developments in court and tribunal administrative data practices.

What is the data mapping project?

Victoria Law Foundation’s Data Mapping Project examines how administrative data is collected and used in the Victorian civil justice system. The project investigates what data is available, its accuracy and consistency, how data is used and what needs to be done to improve its utility for addressing access to justice questions. 

The Data Mapping Project examines the use and utility of administrative data in the civil justice system, a foundational step in understanding its availability, suitability and utility in answering access to justice questions. 

The project is in three stages. The first explores administrative data collected in the legal assistance sector. The second covers courts and tribunals, and the third will examine other dispute resolution and complaint bodies.

Key findings

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Smarter data: The use and utility of administrative data in Victorian courts and tribunals

Release Date: 1 December 2021

Authors: Hugh M. McDonald with Clare L. Kennedy, Tenielle Hagland and Lynne Haultain

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Implications and way forward

Limits of current data and opportunities to go further

While Victorian courts and tribunals have been working to improve data quality, use and utility, they are rapidly approaching the limits of current data. Progress will require a step change in type and scope of data points collected and the extent to which data can be linked with other datasets, within and beyond the justice system.

Smarter data for enhanced insight

Better data and analysis can provide significant operational insights, improving court and tribunal function, and ultimately enhancing access to justice. Core to this are data and data systems that provide a better understanding of the demographics of users and the issues they face. To answer critical access to justice questions you need to be able to see people and their problems.

People-centred data

The civil justice system works best when it mirrors the needs and capabilities of the public. This leads to efficient operation and enhanced access to justice. Central to this is understanding the diverse cohorts using courts and tribunals, which is only possible with smarter data. However, to fully appreciate the complexity of people’s lives means additional data, data linkage and understanding that administrative data provides only one piece of the puzzle.

How smarter data helps

Improving data quality and scope enhances utility – it allows more questions to be answered. The answers to these questions can reveal factors affecting operation and performance; enable appropriate response to diverse needs; identify downstream effects of change; monitor and evaluate reform; and determine what works.

Need for strategic leadership and investment

Shared understanding of the purpose, benefits and insights of improved data can usher in a new era of civil justice. Strategic leadership and investment are necessary to foster these goals and maximise the insights offered by improved administrative data.

Interested in more information on data mapping?