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Immersive (XR) storytelling


min read

Virtual reality used to build empathy and drive change for people with intellectual disability in our criminal justice systems

Published on

December 30, 2022

With the police. In court.  In prison.  People with intellectual disability, especially First Nations people, are overrepresented across all areas of Australia’s criminal justice systems, often resulting from trauma and lifelong disadvantage. 


A 2013 Victorian parliamentary inquiry reported that people with intellectual disability were “anywhere between 40 and 300 percent more likely to be jailed than people without intellectual disability”. Yet this is a problem that successive governments have so far been unable to solve.


[They Will Use] My First Name is a virtual reality documentary produced by Maitree for the Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability (VALID) to accompany a year long participatory research project by the advocacy organisation titled “Justice For All”. The project was established in response to the increasing need for support and advocacy VALID witnessed for people with intellectual disability involved in the criminal justice system.

“When the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) commenced rollout in metropolitan Melbourne, demand for VALID’s individual advocacy service increased. At the same time, the state government began rolling back direct service provision, including case management.” states VALID project coordinator Emily Piggott.

“The increase in requests for VALID’s advocacy was often from people who had previously not come to the attention of disability advocacy services. They were slipping through the system’s cracks. They did not have adequate disability support, or in some instances, any support at all.”


They stripped me and left me naked, and I got nothing to do but cover myself with my hands.

Guided by the powerful voices of people with lived experience in the system, [They Will Use] My First Name takes audiences on an immersive journey into the vulnerability, neglect and loss of dignity people with intellectual disability experience in Australia’s criminal justice systems.

“By using immersive video to take people into the courtroom, behind 20ft prison walls, and into a small, bare prison cell we wanted audiences to get a sense of the confusion, isolation, erosion of identity and trauma we heard in the stories of our courageous contributors” says Maitree producer on the film Peta Khan.

“And most importantly we wanted the film to be a chance to hear from people with intellectual disability themselves - what do they want to change in the system? And what we heard from almost every contributor was the same: ‘we just want to be treated like humans, be listened to and be believed’.”

"It’s about believing, you know. No one believed me if I told a story like that."

The film and report also shine a light on the cyclical nature of the system for people with intellectual disability who are more likely to experience homelessness, trauma, drug and alcohol abuse, and physical and mental health concerns.


Developed with the film interviewees and consultants, VALID’s Justice for All report also has a series of recommendations for the change that is needed in the system including putting an end to the use of solitary confinement and restrictive practice for people with intellectual disability and ultimately an end to detention for people unfit to plea.

To watch the film in virtual reality please contact Maitree info@maitreehouse.com

Written by

Emily Dash

Peta Khan

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