Maryborough's first Murri Court
ABORIGINAL elders sat either side of Magistrate John Smith as he heard the details of Allan Torney’s offences yesterday.
Aunty Elvena Tobane and Uncle Mark Singho were the first of the Fraser Coast’s indigenous elders to take part in the Maryborough Murri Court, a more relaxed style of court but one that is just as serious.
Six local elders will officially take part in the process, giving cultural input to the magistrate during the monthly Murri Court sittings.
Aunty Elvena had a few butterflies before yesterday’s court appearance but was proud to take part in the justice process.
“This is our first Murri Court and I think it’s great, but it’s still up to the defendants themselves,” she said.
“They have to commit to doing the right thing and suffer the consequences if they don’t.”
In the Murri Court yesterday all parties sat around the same table and heard the facts of the offences before defence barrister Sarah Laikind made her submissions.
It was much like a regular Magistrates Court but the magistrate adjourned the sentence for three months to give 20-year-old Torney a chance to turn his life around with the help of his elders.
Magistrate John Smith ordered Torney to attend indigenous men’s meetings and undertake any programs they recommend.
If he did not comply with their directions he would have to return to the regular Maryborough Magistrates Court.
Naomi George from the Kahwun Wooga Aboriginal Corporation said the Murri Court aimed to address the high number of indigenous people ending up in jail.
“Murri Court is not an easy ride by any means, it’s about people taking ownership of the crimes they have committed,” she said.
“Defendants in Murri Court must plead guilty, they have to speak with the community justice group and their elders and the elders make recommendations that the defendant has to abide by, whether it be a program with ATODS, detox or counselling.
“Often the life these people have led has been very traumatic and they turn to alcohol and drugs which leads to other offences ... the elders ask why these things happen. Murri Court aims to get people the help and care they need.”