Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: case study report series
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse committed itself to publishing an extensive series of reports on its hearings so that these stories are heard and members of the public can understand the devastating impact that sexual abuse has had on victims’ lives.
In 2013, the Royal Commission appointed Apricot Zebra as external consultant to advise on plain English and structural issues in its case study reports and interim and final reports. Royal Commission lawyers wrote more than 40 reports on hearings that were held across the country. Apricot Zebra’s role was to adapt the language for a general audience, including the abuse victims themselves – who may have left school because of emotional issues resulting from their abuse – and people with limited language skills. We also edited the reports to the high professional standard required by the Royal Commission.
- applied plain English principles
- redrafted material to improve readability
- suggested changes to structure and content to improve clarity and logic
- took a high level of care to preserve legal integrity
- ensured that reports were grammatically correct, free of typographical errors and consistent with the Royal Commission’s style guide and other guidance
- ensured that reports took a similar approach to the presentation of information in the reports so that the report series had a consistent feel.
Apricot Zebra also edited the interim and final redress and civil litigation reports, the interim criminal justice report and three volumes of the final report.
Annual report case studies
Since 2010 Apricot Zebra has assisted in writing many annual reports for government departments and agencies. Clients often choose to use case studies, vignettes or feature articles to showcase their important achievements. Many departments and agencies have asked Apricot Zebra to assist in writing these. In order to be engaging and informative, case studies need to be carefully headed, structured and worded and must present the information in a clear and logical manner.
For the last four years we have assisted one of our clients in producing its annual report, including by developing numerous detailed case studies. Our client is involved in complex legal proceedings. There is a risk that, by focusing solely on legal aspects of those proceedings, the case studies may fail to engage the reader, thereby missing an important opportunity to highlight the valuable work that our client is doing.
To ensure that the reader is drawn into the material, we focus on human interest elements of the case studies (why a case was brought, what the consumer detriment issues were and who was involved) rather than just the legal aspects (which court a matter was heard in, which laws were breached and what penalties were applied). This enables the reader to take away a much clearer understanding of our client’s work.
Contracts user portal
Apricot Zebra worked with a major government department and a well-known law firm to produce a contracts management portal for departmental officers. The portal was intended to guide departmental officers who manage contracts through a very large and complex set of documentation with strong legal elements. It was very important that users were able to understand and apply the correct processes at the correct time and that the requirements were clear and unambiguous so that users could make appropriate and robust decisions.
Lawyers drafted the material. Apricot Zebra’s task was to redraft that material for usability, plain language and more accessible structure while retaining its legal integrity. We also designed a workflow to guide departmental users through the processes of setting up and then managing contracts over an extended period.
- ensured that we understood the complex legal and administrative requirements of each stage of the officials’ work in implementing the program
- developed an accessible structure for the suite of documents as well as for each type
- used plain English, information design and technical writing skills to translate the documents into clear, logical, user-friendly directions to officers with no prior knowledge or experience of law or the program and its context.
Australian Government Solicitor and Attorney-General’s Department: Opinions of Attorneys-General of the Commonwealth of Australia database
The Opinions of Attorneys-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is an extensive and important collection of past opinions of Commonwealth Attorneys-General, Solicitors-General and Attorney-General’s Department lawyers between the years 1901 and 1950.
In 2013 and 2016, Apricot Zebra assisted the Attorney-General’s Department and the Australian Government Solicitor to prepare two volumes (Volumes 3 and 4) containing hundreds of legal opinions for the database collection. The first collection (1923–1945) was also printed in hard copy format.