The first of 13 Murri Courts was launched in Rockhampton yesterday as part of a strategy by the Queensland government to divert Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the criminal justice system where they remain over-represented.
“Murri Courts assist in diverting people from the criminal justice system,” said Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath.
“This is a vital change to the way we administer criminal justice in Queensland and an important step to closing the gap in our community.”
Murri Courts were first opened in 2002, in response to the disproportionate number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland jails. They were subsequently axed in 2012 by the Liberal National Party government.
D’Ath said that before the system was axed, community justice groups, Elders, as well as dedicated magistrates, were passionate about reducing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prisons.
“The court provided access to culturally-competent service providers and referral pathways to address the underlying causes of criminality,” D’Ath said.
“The new Murri Court model demonstrates what can be achieved when the courts, governments and local communities work together.”
Murri Courts increase community participation and confidence in the court process, she said. The system offers support services to offenders and improves sentencing outcomes as a result.
Police minister Bill Byrne said the opening of the new court is an exciting step.
“Murri Courts require offenders to work hard, to take responsibility for their offending and recognise the impact that their actions have on the wider community,” Byrne said.
“Participants in Murri Court are encouraged to speak in ‘plain English’ rather than legal jargon, and the magistrate speaks directly to the offender and takes advice from Elders and Respected Persons.”