Magistrate Zachary Sarra has had quite a journey, not just throughout the justice sector. He’s shared with us some of his journey for Law Week 2016.
“When I was born in 1958, the referendum (that paved the way for Indigenous Australian’s to be included in the census) hadn’t come through yet. Like my mother, I was born under the legislative powers of the Flora and Fauna Act,” he said.
“Here I am now and I’m a Magistrate of her Majesty, the Queen.”
His Honour’s journey to the courts evolved from his childhood job of picking tobacco and chipping cane in his hometown of Bundaberg, to social worker with psychiatric services, to professional rugby league player, to Commonwealth Crown Prosecutor to Magistrate.
Magistrate Zachary Sarra appreciates hard work. One needs only to look his hands to know that he hasn’t worked behind a desk his whole life. “Look at my hands,” he said. “They’re not judge’s hands,” he says proudly. “They’re workers hands.”
“My dad was Italian and he worked cutting cane, picking tobacco to feed us. Pa taught us the value of “hard work.”
My mum, is an Aboriginal woman who taught us to respect oneself, your parents, brothers and sisters and Elders and others. Never to bring shame on yourself or family name, never put the boot in to anyone and if someone needs your help, you open the door and help them. Always stick up for the underdog, don’t be a bully and do what you can to make sure kids have the opportunity to read and write.”
His Honour approaches twenty years on the bench. He currently sits at Wynnum Magistrates Court.
Magistrate Sarra’s knowledge of culture, inclusion of Elders in the sentencing hearings combined with almost 20 years’ experience on the bench, shapes his judicial decision-making style.
“The Law is there to help people and not oppress them. In my sentencing capacity, my focus is on social justice that will assist rehabilitation and reintegration back into the community. There is no mystery as what you’re witnessing is merely an extension of my parent’s legacy”.