With an interest in Law, Aboriginal student Natalia spent her Justice Journey with staff, Elders and the Magistrate at the Brisbane Murri Court. Her experience also coincided with NAIDOC Week. Murri Court is a culturally-appropriate court process that respects and acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and provides an opportunity for members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community (including Elders and victims) to participate in the court process. Defendants are required to take responsibility for their offending in front of their Elders as well as the Magistrate and are provided with the support of Elders and support services while on bail to address the underlying causes of offending and to make changes to their behaviour.
I had the honour and privilege of experiencing the Murri Court and all it has to offer. As an Indigenous woman, this Justice Journey enlightened me. I was met at the Brisbane Magistrate Court by Rhona, the Indigenous Justice Officer for the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. Rhona explained to me her role within the Murri Court and made me feel welcome. She then introduced me to the Elders, Uncle Lance and Aunty Beverley, who both had inspirational stories to tell. Listening to the Elders and all the experience they had, particularly in the Indigenous community, it was evident that they were committed to making a difference.
Before we began in the Murri Court, I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with Magistrate Previtera and the Elders as they discussed the cases that were about to come before the Court. This was the most educational and enlightening part of the day for me. It was interesting to see the process a Magistrate goes through when making decisions regarding a case, and how valued the Elders were to the process.
I had previously spent substantial time at the District and Supreme Court and became very familiar with the way they are run. The Murri Court process was entirely different to that, including physical differences in the courtroom. With the presence of the Elders and the Magistrate in a sentencing circle and traditional Indigenous paintings all around, a much more inviting space is created. The most important part to me though, was the sense of change from the traditional court proceedings.
The Elders were able to able to give guidance and the Magistrate always had a fair discussion with the defendant. The Magistrate often referred to the system as a tick and flick, which is an assessment of the actions the defendant has been making to improve themselves and the community. Some of the services commonly talked about during court were the yarning circles held by the Elders that the defendants had to attend and also counselling and other support programs.
Overall the experience was educational and inspiring. I believe that all people should be informed on the Murri Court and the opportunity it gives Indigenous Australians. I learnt a lot about Murri Court and the decision-making processes a Magistrate will go through.