THE NORTHERN Territory is considering the practicality of an Aboriginal court that would be modelled on Victoria’s Koori Court, and modified. But the NT Law Society argues that although Aboriginal incarceration is a growing problem, its eye is on the detail of the proposals, which will make or break any positive effect a court of this sort could have.
The NT Government is under pressure from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and Aboriginal Legal Aid to set up the court, which in general terms is supported by the Law Society.
A spokesperson at the Law Society told Lawyers Weekly that even since mandatory sentencing for property crime was abolished, Aboriginal incarceration has continued to grow. “We would support any effective initiative that will address why this is happening and that will solve this problem,” she said.
The Northern Australian Legal Service has been pushing for some sort of circle sentencing, by which elders are involved with the magistrate in the sentencing.
Last week, the Government arranged for representatives from Victoria’s Koori Court to go to the Territory to speak about what they had done in that state, and what they would have liked to have done differently.
But the Law Society said any proposals were still very much in the early stages. While the Government considers its options, other groups hesitate to comment before the details are made clear. “There are a range of views that will no doubt be thrashed out in local media.”
“It could be a two or three year consideration process, as there doesn’t seem to be a rush to move forward. [The Government is] looking at what other jurisdictions are doing, but they haven’t even taken it to cabinet yet.”