Kady spent two days with Magistrate Trevor Black who convenes Murri Court in Cairns. Murri Court is a specialist court that provides an opportunity for members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community (including Elders and victims), to participate in a court process which requires defendants to take responsibility for their offending behaviour and which respects and acknowledges their culture.
Australia’s law and justice processes have always been an intriguing and valuable system of society for me. As my generation are the leaders of the future, I believe it is vital for us to gain knowledge and experience within the governing factors of the Australian legal system.
Myself (wearing Magistrate Black's robes) and Magistrate Black.
I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to examine Australia’s justice system first-hand by job-shadowing prominent Cairns Magistrate Trevor Black, as part of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General’s (DJAG) Law Week Justice Journeys program.
Upon arriving in the morning at the bustling Cairns Courthouse on my first day, I was met by Dianne, a lovely lady who had an immense job as the assistant to all magistrate’s presiding over courts in Cairns. After chatting with Dianne for some time, I was taken over to the Magistrate’s chambers to meet Magistrate Black.
Whilst Magistrate Black did not have any of his own Murri Court proceedings that day, he had come in to work to talk with me, answer my questions and take me around the courts to explain the processes and churn some legal jargon back into English. He met me with a strong handshake before inviting me to the magistrate’s conference room where we sat down for a cup of coffee and question time.
After answering my many questions in impeccable detail, drawing from his many years working as a deliverer of justice in Australia as both a magistrate and a coroner, Magistrate Black took me to both the Arrest and Supreme Courts in order to demonstrate the court processes and see some court proceedings in action.
He explained to me that it was unusual for him to sit in on another colleague’s courtroom but I was incredibly grateful for his expertise, enthusiasm and translation as we sat in on what appeared to be complicated cases with many issues to examine. Obviously a popular man around the courthouse, I was introduced jovially to a number of lawyers, magistrates, judges and clients.
In Dianne’s office where she coordinates her busy job assisting all the magistrate’s in Cairns courts.
My second day at the courthouse was all the more exciting as I was introduced to the court Magistrate Black presides over, the Murri Court. Magistrate Black had previously explained to me the extensive number of processes and considerations within the operation of a Murri Court for Indigenous Australians. Prior to the start of proceedings, I was introduced to the staff of Murri Court. Amongst them, the dedicated defense and prosecution counsel and Magistrate Black’s clerk, Byron, who talked about his role in the courtroom and the astounding success of Murri Court in preventing recidivism.
One of the highlights of my experience was meeting the Justice Group Coordinator, Mike Adams and the amazing Indigenous Elders; Uncle Merv, Aunty Leila, and Aunty Bev, who are all members of the Amaroo Justice Group. These incredibly hard-working Elders work tirelessly with the defendants to establish a reconnection with their culture to prevent further crime. As Byron had explained to me earlier, their success rate was extremely high.
I found Murri Court to be a fascinating and enlightening process that I believe is essential to our society. Culture and ancestry is such an important part of the lives of Indigenous people and a loss of connection to their land and people can often be the cause of criminal offences. Murri Court is essential in restoring this connection.
As a member of the Cairns and Australian community in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are an integral part of our past, present and future, having the opportunity to job-shadow Magistrate Black and discuss with him the ins and outs of our legal system, to me, was invaluable.