Recent events have highlighted the urgent need to address the continued over-representation of Indigenous people in Australia’s criminal justice system, including by establishing the Walama Court in NSW and adopting the Uluru Statement from the Heart and a First Nations Voice, according to the New South Wales Bar Association.
“Policies and laws in Australia continue to fall short because policy makers, parliaments and courts do not appear to be listening to First Nations Peoples,” President of the NSW Bar Association, Tim Game SC, said today.
“The Association has persistently advocated for the Walama Court to be established in NSW to reduce recidivism rates of Indigenous people through increased cooperation between the criminal justice system and respected persons in the Indigenous community, and the use of more rigorous supervision orders and diversionary programs in the sentencing process.
“The Walama Court involves a hybrid model incorporating aspects of the Victorian Koori Court and the NSW Drug Court and would operate at District Court level.
“The Walama Court model proposes that the judge has greater capacity to monitor the progress of the individual post-sentence. This could include an intensive period of monitoring, including more intensive supervision by Community Corrections in the community,” said Mr Game.
“The proposal is supported by a sound business case, prepared by the Walama Working Group led by Judge Dina Yehia. It also has the support of the Police Association of NSW, the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Law Reform Commission’s 2018 Pathways to Justice Inquiry and the 2020 Special Commission of Inquiry on ‘Ice’.
“None of these proposals are new. They have been the subject of consideration for some years. We already have a Youth Koori Court which was expanded by the NSW Government because of its acknowledged success. Implementation should not be delayed any longer.
“The Association also urges the Commonwealth to adopt the Uluru Statement from the Heart and calls on the NSW Government to prioritise the establishment and funding of the Walama Court as a priority this year. These matters are too important to wait any longer,” Mr Game said.
“Adopting the Uluru Statement and enshrining a First Nations Voice to parliament in our Constitution is important to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are genuinely heard on laws and policies that affect them.
“The recognition of First Nations voices in our criminal justice system and sentencing processes is integral to any serious attempt to reduce significantly the terrible incarceration rates of our First Nations Peoples”.