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(generated from captions) This program is not subtitled the concept for the Koori Court, From this historic meeting was born # Wake up and realise... # # Brothers and sisters SONG: # Brothers and sisters within the criminal justice system. of Indigenous Australians addressing the over-representation they examined new strategies With Aboriginal community leaders, from all government bodies together. and Attorney-Generals Aboriginal Affairs Corrections, Juvenile Justice, brought ministers for the Police, the Indigenous deaths in custody the National Summit addressing On the 4th July, 1997, Here's Mark Olive with this story. with the white legal system. and their cultural beliefs Aboriginal elders It works by bringing together And, so far, it seems to be working. within the Aboriginal community. reduce the high rates of imprisonment The Koori Court was set up to help the Koori Court in Victoria. First, we take a look at later in the program. You'll be seeing that one AUDIENCE CLAPS of our Deadly Yarns from the west. and we've got another one the Koori Court system in Victoria We're going to take a look at pretty deadly on the old gumleaf. We're going to meet a fella who is for you today. We have got a huge show I'm Rachael Maza. Hello, and welcome to Message Stick. THEME MUSIC

of authority, to be there. we want Kooris to be in positions contact with the justice system, So, wherever Kooris come into of Kooris in the justice system. we build positive participation The second theme is that it's juvenile justice or adults. And that's whether in the criminal justice system. over-representation One is to reduce Indigenous in the justice agreement. that flow through everything we do There are two key themes Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. from the Royal Commission into from the 1991 final report to implement the recommendations this government's commitment goes back to The Aboriginal Justice Agreement of Aboriginal Australians. incarceration rates in light of the appalling and do nothing Because you can't sit back Aboriginal community. more relevant to the to try and make our justice system a series of Koori Court trials and we decided to set up with the Koori community here, I had discussions attorney-general in Victoria, So, when I became from our justice systems. that Aboriginal person was it really shows how alienated might laugh at that, Um, now, while some people "I plead guilty." white prosecutor, and he said, solicitor there, white magistrate, He looked round, saw a white how the crash occurred. He was called in to explain who'd seen the crash. was an old Aboriginal fella to a single vehicle collision where the only witness in on a coronial inquest I vividly remember sitting legal service in Mount Isa. retained by an Aboriginal I was a solicitor ROB HULLS: Many years ago created the Koori Court. of how and why the judicial system and understanding which gives you an insight this unique and successful program, We follow the key players involved in in the administration of law. Indigenous ownership and knowledge The Koori Court aims to increase Aboriginal Justice Agreement. an initiative of the Victorian

to the children's jurisdiction. to expand the Koori Court by the parliament, which has been passed we've introduced legislation, But in an Australian first, to other parts of Victoria. We're keen to expand it is working. shows that the Koori Court trial The anecdotal evidence as I suggest of the children's Koori Court. for the establishment in the reference group And we're also involved then down to Warrnambool. Then it rolled out into Broadmeadows in Shepparton. that started the first Koori Court ..on the reference groups representative on the... ..commenced with our being with the Koori Court was... Our involvement positions of authority. we have given people What's happened now is, in Victoria. within the justice system of position of authority there were no Kooris Up until, up until 2000, participating in the process. The empowerment comes from It's a great initiative. This hasn't happened before. in a holistic way. How they can best be addressed in the Koori communities. issues that need to be addressed with magistrates, to work out the in corrections, with the police, with people in my department, people you have Kooris sitting down And it means, for the first time, as well. sit on these advisory committees all aspects of the justice system But just as importantly, in the Koori community. people who have some real standing Koori elders, They are made up of, obviously, six throughout Victoria. have been set up - advisory committees The regional Aboriginal justice We have three distinct practices. family law and civil law. in both criminal law, the criminal justice system, who comes into contact with or Torres Strait Island person to any Aboriginal Representation is open for quite some time. We've been going operations in about 1973. The legal service commenced

who are pleading guilty. So, my role as a magistrate is the same as, um, a magistrate in any other proceedings, to reach a decision in relation to an appropriate sentence. The difference between the Koori Court and the mainstream court is the process of reaching that decision is completely different. The court is structured so it's much more informal... ..conducted in a much more informal way. Um, there's a table - everybody seated at a table at eye level. The magistrate is assisted, or I am assisted, by obviously the two elders that make up the court. Frances and I are respected elders of the Koori Court at Broadmeadows. The Magistrates Court. There's five of us elders that do sit on the court. We sit every fortnight. The magistrate's on my left. On my right is the Koori worker. only deals with people because, um, the Koori Court to plead guilty to the charges has already made a decision before the Koori Court Anybody that appears in relation to sentencing. and make a decision I'm there to hear the case before me in mainstream court. is the same role that I have My role as a magistrate and sexual assault. other than domestic violence deals with all matters The Koori Court to send the defendant to prison. Including the power all sentencing alternatives. and the magistrate retains Koori Court have pleaded guilty, Defendants appearing in the The Koori Court Act 2002. of the Magistrates Court. the Koori Court is a division of the Magistrates Court, MARK OLIVE: Created out SIREN BLARES Children's Court as well. to now have a Koori So, we believe that it's important counterparts. of their non-Indigenous is about 17 times the rate The incarceration rate of Koori kids

And down the other end of the table to my left is a corrections officer. And across the side of the table is the prosecution. Then the defendant's lawyer, then the defendant. And there's always a vacant chair next to the defendant. Either for one of his parents or his girlfriend, or anyone in the court that can come forward and speak on behalf of him. We as elders would know either their grandparents or their parents. And to have their crime... ..as an open book, if you like, in front of us, as elders, is very embarrassing and very stressful to those young people that do come before us. As the police prosecutor, I present the evidence to the court on behalf of the informant so that the court can be in possession of all the information it needs from the police perspective in order to arrive at a suitable sentencing option and so that the elders are in possession of all the information that they need to enable them to assist the magistrate. It's really devastating for them. And, er... ..you can see it. You can see their, you know, how they're feeling. You need to be conscious of the need to explain things clearly, and, you know, forget the jargon. Um, that means that the process also can take longer because a lot more people have input into what's being said. And I think the nature of the informality of the court, and given the time that we're allowed in terms of determining, or to hear the evidence before the court before a sentencing decision is made, means that you get more information placed before the court. Well, I'm a criminal defence lawyer. I have the...my clients come to my office and seek my assistance in trying to sort out their legal problems, and their criminal problems. Um, part of my role is to make sure that if they're eligible they get listed into the Koori court, taken out of the traditional Magistrates Court system,

and into the Koori Court. My role in the Broadmeadows Koori Court, as the Aboriginal Justice worker, is to provide advice to the magistrate on what programs are available to Indigenous people in the Victorian community. As well as provide support and advice to the people who appear before the court, um, in relation to what programs are available to them to enable them to address the issues, if there are any issues, that bring them before the court in the first place. The 'CREDIT' program is a court-based drug treatment program. It was initially...it was an initiative of magistrates, um, to try and look at a way of how to get people to, who are on bail, to address their drug use to stop offending. Another major part of my role is to work with, very closely with Indigenous organisations, as well as non-Indigenous organisations, to provide the best possible support we can for the person who's appearing before the court. 'CREDIT' is an acronym name. And that stands for 'Court Referral and Evaluation for Drug Intervention and Treatment'. MARK OLIVE: With the help of these specialised people, the breach in court appearances has dropped considerably, and deters defendants from re-offending. It is an informal setting, as it sets around a bar table. And it really takes away from that hierarchical set-up. One of the problems with the court process, the traditional court process, is that there's a, um, a divorcing of the client, or the defendant, from the proceedings. And that's mainly based on the... ..on the traditional format of a court. Where you have the magistrate sitting, usually up high. It sets up this very interesting power dynamic, I guess. And you're very much, even myself, very much in the shadows of the bench. So, whilst it does bring that informality down, which I think is an extremely positive thing, it's...it actually also makes it extremely intense. For better or for worse for the client, the defendant, he or she is thrust into the whole situation. So physically they're very close and emotionally they get tied into it. It could almost be, in some occasions, be considered a discussion among a group of people, where often the offender themselves is a third party. And they're listening, but they're the subject of the discussion. There's also, I think, a misunderstanding that it makes it really easy and free for the person, the defendant, who's in there, but, gee, I wouldn't like to be in their shoes. I think, often when you're confronting a magistrate it's enough, but in this court you're actually confronting the magistrate and two respected elders. I see our role as to keep the figures down of Aboriginal people that are incarcerated. Get the figures down, because... ..that's why the Koori Courts were established, because the statistics were too high. I think of a chap who was so enraged and angry, that there was nothing that was going to, seemingly, settle him down for the court process to begin. Bar for one of the elders, you know, looking him straight in the eye, and just saying, "You've got to really... "You're disappointing me with this behaviour "and you really need to, you know, sit down and keep quiet about things "and listen to what's going on around you." And that was really the only time, and he really crumpled. It's a good system, it's well thought out, it will doubtless evolve. But at the present time, it...it seems to me to be quite an appropriate system for dealing with Indigenous offenders. If it goes some way to make our justice system more relevant to the Koori community, if it goes some way to ensuring that the Koori community takes ownership of our justice system, then the whole community benefits, not just the Koori community but the broader community as well. REPORTER: "Under particular scrutiny, controversial..." REPORTER: "..grossly disproportionate numbers." REPORTER: "..labels the laws unfair and unacceptable, "appearing to target young Aboriginal Australians." GAVEL BANGS We can't stand by and do nothing whilst Indigenous Australians are being incarcerated at the rates they are. Indigenous Australian men are still today about 16 times more likely to be jailed than their non-Indigenous counterparts. Indigenous women - over 20 times more likely. These figures are worse than when the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody made its report. So it's important that we do think outside the square in relation to trying to address these rates. The anecdotal evidence to date is good. Rates of recidivism, whilst we're going to have a full analysis, seem to have been reduced dramatically. But just as importantly, the Victorian Koori community better understand how the justice system works. They are taking ownership of the justice system. I simply send a message to the Australian government, and other state governments, that we have to think in a far cleverer way. We have to be more innovative. We have to better involve the Aboriginal community to address these appalling incarceration rates, because they shame us all. You know, you can't continue, particularly as a white politician, to be saying to Aboriginal people, "Well, look, we know what's best for you. "And, so, therefore you follow our lead." That's just not the way it should work. Initiatives such as this have to be borne out of the Koori community and they have to proceed in partnership. And that's why I think the Koori Court has been so successful. And now for a change of pace - we're going to meet a fella who's doing his bit to keep an old tradition alive. GUMLEAF VERSION OF ELVIS PRESLEY'S 'WOODEN HEART' PLAYS From what I remember, the gumleaf was used to make music. It was used at social gatherings when the mob used to get together. It was used to attract birds, mimic birds. Because our people are hunters and gatherers, of course. The black cockatoo and the cockatoo. (Mimics cockatoo call) And the whip bird, the male and the female calling to one another. (Mimics whip birds) I was born at Burnt Bridge mission. And I used to gather gumleaves and practise. As I grew up, I ran into a fella who helped me fine-tune it, you know. And he taught me the fine art of playing the gumleaf, I suppose you could say. How you know it's the right gumleaf - it's soft. And you use the curve of the leaf, like that. And you gently fold it. You don't crease it, you fold it just gently. And then you hold it at the bottom like that. And just put it, rest it on the bottom of your lip, and blow over the top of it. With the top lip. Didgeridoo players are...common, you know. And it's good to see, that's... there's nothing wrong with that. But there's not too many gumleaf players. It's all part of life, part of our culture. And we lose the gumleaf playin' and we'll lose a very, very important part of our culture. I been spending over 10 years trying to teach the young. Telling them that it's important to hold onto the gumleaf. After all, they are free, you know. You don't have to pay for it. PLAYS ELVIS PRESLEY'S 'WOODEN HEART' (Blows raspberries) I might work on that. But this next story is definitely worth sticking around for. It's the latest instalment in our Deadly Yarns short film series. CHEERING AUDIENCE CHEERS (Man shouts) You would, wouldn't you? WOMAN: Your stupid car broke down and he come to fix it! (Agitated) Bull! Bull! Come 'ere, come 'ere! I wanna know where you've been! Stop! Stop! Stop yelling at me! You come back 'ere! No! You come back here! (Distressed) NO! (Man rants and raves) (Cries in distress) Stop yelling at me! AUDIENCE CLAPS Come on, you'd better get ready for school now. Don't worry about it. I'll get it. You know about the woggle, baby? Nah, just sort of in my head. SOUND OF CAR PULLING UP We'll put it on the fridge, eh? Yeah. WOMAN: The woggle was an ancient Dreamtime spirit. The snake is your totem. As it was your father's. MAN: (Hostile) If I have told you once, I have told you a thousand bloody times! I give you an answer and that's my answer and I don't want to hear another word about it! Alright, I told you! But, oh, no, that's not good enough for you! You just keep on, keep on, till eventually I've got no choice. Why, eh? Why do you do it, eh?! Why do you make me do it?! WOMAN: In the Dreamtime, there was chaos and fighting. No law, and no leaders. The woggle and other spirits were desperate to create peace and order in these troubled times. What do I have to do?! What do I have to do to get through? What do I have to do to get inside that stupid, thick, black skull of yours?! Can't answer me, can you?! You can't even answer me, you stupid... DOOR SLAMS BELL RINGS SHOUTS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FROM AUDIENCE AUDIENCE CHEERS And, then, out of the chaos, the woggle and other spirits all agreed that the human should be made flesh. This being was chosen to lead them to peace and order, and be responsible for all the plants and all the animals. Just like the woggle who left his own mark, by creating the hills and valleys, you have the power to take control. To create your own path. And to leave your own mark. AUDIENCE CHEERS And that's it, we've come to the end of another show. Thanks for your company. I look forward to seeing you next week. CARNIVAL MUSIC WOMAN: I was just like any other child. I had hope and I had innocence. There's a little child inside all of us. And when that child gets injured, terrible things happen. I had innocence, I had hope, I had trust. I'm just like thousands of Aboriginal people across Australia who was stolen because the government wanted a white Australia. 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