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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice initiatives

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders appear more often in court and are put in prison at higher rates than other Australians. They are also more likely to be victims of crime.

We want to reduce the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criminal justice system. We also want to make the justice system more culturally appropriate.

We run a number of programs to help achieve this.

Community Justice Groups

Community Justice Groups (CJGs) consist of community members who come together voluntarily with the aim of reducing crime and social problems in their communities.

CJGs hope that by working together with the government the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criminal justice system can be reduced.

We give funding to 50 CJGs across Queensland. CJGs help both victims and offenders at all stages of the legal process.

For more information please email indigenousjusticeprograms@justice.qld.gov.au or contact Indigenous Justice Programs on (07) 3738 7209.

Community Justice Group Domestic and Family Violence Enhancement Program

The CJG Domestic and Family Violence Enhancement Program (CJG DFV Program) is being rolled out in 18 remote and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over 4 years, in response to recommendations made by the Special Taskforce on DFV in the Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland.

The CJG DFV Program aims to build the capacity of CJGs to respond effectively to DFV in the community and strengthen the support for the courts. It also aims to support the CJG to establish or develop the capacity of local authority groups to respond to DFV, crime and violence. A key part of the program is working collaboratively with CJG, Elders and Respected Persons, government and agency partners and non-government stakeholders to design the DFV Strategy.

For more information email indigenousjusticeprograms@justice.qld.gov.au or contact Indigenous Justice Programs on (07) 3738 7209.

A framework for stronger CJGs

The Framework for Stronger Community Justice Groups (PDF, 5.9 MB) (the framework) outlines the role of CJGs within their communities and the common challenges faced by CJGs. It also presents a refocused model for the CJG program recognising the breadth of their service delivery.

The framework outlines how government agencies will enable CJGs to deliver justice-related outcomes in their communities. The framework aims to help government agencies to identify ways of working together to acknowledge, remunerate and support the work of CJGs.

Murri Court

Murri Court links Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants to cultural and support services to help them make changes in their lives and stop offending.

Elders and Respected Persons from the community are in the courtroom to guide and encourage defendants, and help magistrates understand more about defendants’ personal and cultural circumstances.

Murri Court is less formal than mainstream courts but it is not a soft option. Defendants are expected to work hard to make better choices.

Murri Courts are located in:

  • Brisbane
  • Caboolture
  • Cairns
  • Cherbourg
  • Cleveland
  • Ipswich
  • Mackay
  • Maroochydore
  • Mount Isa
  • Richlands
  • Rockhampton
  • St George
  • Toowoomba
  • Townsville
  • Wynnum

Not all locations have both an adult and youth Murri Court.

For more information email indigenousjusticeprograms@justice.qld.gov.au or contact Indigenous Justice Programs on (07) 3738 7209.

Aurukun Restorative Justice Program

The Aurukun Restorative Justice Program (ARJP) aims to reduce violence in the community through locally based culturally inclusive mediation and peacekeeping to build local capacity to resolve disputes. The ARJP is intended to support community safety and positive community outcomes by building community conflict resolution capacity.

Mediators and nominated Elders facilitate mediations between disputing parties, including family disputes. Referrals come directly from families and other community members such as police, the court and service providers. Families can choose the Elders they wish to mediate their dispute and most mediations are conducted in local Wik language. The contribution of Elders and Respected Persons in both Murri Court and the restorative justice programs instils trust in the justice system for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

ARJP has supported the training and development of staff and Elders, with 4 community members and residents now qualified as nationally accredited mediators.

For more information email indigenousjusticeprograms@justice.qld.gov.au or contact Indigenous Justice Programs on (07) 3738 7209.

Mornington Island Restorative Justice Project

The Mornington Island Restorative Justice (MIRJ) project started in 2008. It is a working partnership with Indigenous families to provide a peacemaking service for their community.

This service resolves disputes in a way that respects local culture and is also accepted by the formal justice system. Since 2011 the service has been run by the Junkuri Laka Justice Association.

A formal independent evaluation was completed in June 2014. The report will be published in 2015. Interim reports have been very positive with 91% of participants saying that they felt safer because mediation is happening on Mornington Island. Involving Elders as co-mediators has been very important for the project’s success.

It was anticipated that if the Mornington Island project was successful, it could become a model for other Indigenous communities in Queensland. It would allow Indigenous communities to resolve many disputes before they reach the courts.

For more information on the MIRJ please contact the Junkuri Laka Legal Centre on (07) 4745 7278 or contact:

Nikita Selin (Lawyer, Junkuri Laka)
nikita.junkurilaka@gmail.com
Ph: 0491 854 007

Donal Craig (CEO and Senior Lawyer, Junkuri Laka)
donal.junkurilaka@gmail.com
Ph: 0406 293 929

Remote Justices of the Peace (JP) Magistrates Court Program

The Queensland Government began the Remote JP Magistrates Court Program in 1993. It was part of its response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 1991.

This program aims to make the criminal justice system more culturally appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It allows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to hold positive roles in the criminal justice system in their community by:

  • identifying negative interactions that Indigenous communities have with the justice system and finding ways to improve those interactions
  • dealing with local matters more quickly
  • using culturally appropriate practices with local knowledge and respect
  • enabling communities to decide local solutions to offending within their community
  • using language and processes that are easily understood by defendants.

Under the program, qualified JP magistrates can form a Magistrates Court. They are able to hear and determine outcomes for a range of matters, and in matters where a guilty plea is entered, they are able to sentence the defendant.

The Remote JP Magistrates program operates in discrete communities. Currently, Remote JP courts are active in the discrete communities of Cherbourg and Kowanyama.

Find out how to become a JP on the Queensland Government’s website.

For more information email indigenousjusticeprograms@justice.qld.gov.au or contact Indigenous Justice Programs on (07) 3738 7209.