Success of reopened Murri Court lies at feet of offenders
THE man tasked with overseeing the relaunched Murri Court in Ipswich says its success will be determined by those who walk through its doors.
Magistrate David Shepherd will listen to the first cases of the reopened specialist court tomorrow.
Murri Court aims to deliver a culturally appropriate process that respects and acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and links offenders with treatment and support to help them address the factors that led to their offending.
The Ipswich Murri Court was shut down in 2012 due to funding cuts but local Elders fought to have it reinstated, lamenting the impact its closure had on the local community.
Magistrate Shepherd said it was a privilege for him to take the position.
"This is still the Magistrates Court which must operate within the parameters of the relevant legislation, the same provisions which apply in any Magistrate Court and which apply to everyone,” he said.
"It is, however, a matter of some considerable importance that First Nations people be given an opportunity to restore the connection to their culture where that has been diminished.
"The court will operate to provide opportunities. Its success will not depend upon the existence of the court itself but on the resolve in those who appear in it. We will work hard but its success will depend on those who come before the court.”
He will be assisted in the courtroom by six Elders and Respected Persons from the local community.
In the 2017-18 financial year 615 defendants, including 588 adults and 27 children, appeared before Murri Court in Queensland.
The system aims to address the over-representation of Indigenous people in the prison system, with 28 per cent of all prisoners in Australia being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
They make up only 3.3 per cent of the population.
Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D'Ath attended the special ceremony to mark the court's reopening.
"These initiatives are not soft on crime, they are not letting people off the hook as the broader narrative would have you believe,” she said.
"These are real programs that make a difference. We want to divert people away from our prisons, our kids away from the youth detention centres.”
"There are always the reasons behind the offending and we need to ask the questions and have the conversations.”
Ms D'Ath said the process requires offenders to take responsibility for their offending behaviour and access the support they need to turn things around.
"When they offend there is a ripple effect through that family and through their community that is felt deeply and broadly,” she said.
"You are not just changing one path, you are changing many and you are sendng a positive ripple throughout the community that will make a difference well into the future.
"We cannot talk about Closing the Gap and the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criminal justice system if we do not turn these words into action. That's what we are doing.”