QUEENSLAND’S ABORIGINAL community of Wujal Wujal last week celebrated the sitting of a magistrates court convened by Indigenous JPs.
Arguing it was a step in the Government’s commitment to improving access to justice for Indigenous people, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Rod Welford said “this court sitting is a real example of how our Indigenous communities are becoming much more involved in their local administration of justice”.
The court was convened by two members of the local community who completed their training as Justices of the Peace last month.
Indigenous JPs who have completed the Government’s training program can convene a magistrates court and deal with simple offences such as domestic violence application, by-laws, bail and traffic matters, Welford said.
“The involvement of local Indigenous people in this way empowers communities and gives them a greater sense of responsibility,” he said.
“The JPs training program is making a remarkable difference in many of Queensland’s Indigenous communities,” Welford said.
“Since it began in 1998, we have trained and sworn in more than 170 Indigenous Justices of the Peace in places such as Aurukun, Badu Island, Bamaga, Cherbourg, Hope Vale, Kowanyama, Mornington Island, Napranum, Old Mapoon, Palm Island, Pormpuraaw, Thursday Island, Woorabinda and Yarrabah,” he said.
The most recently established community is Cherbourg where JPs have conducted court sittings during February, March and April this year. “Since that training took place, another 12 Cherbourg community members have nominated to undertake the training provided by my department,” Welford said.
The training of JPs is also being undertaken in the Lockhart River community where the first local court sittings to be held there will take place in August.
With a population of about 500 people, Wujal Wujal is located north of Mossman on the eastern side of Cape York.