Tribal elders deliver justice

By RENEE REDMOND

TRIBAL elders will be given a say in the sentencing of Aboriginal offenders in a new scheme set to be operating in Lismore by January.

Aboriginal Circle Sentencing is an alternative to local court for adult Aboriginal offenders and has the full powers of the court.

It was developed by the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council and is now managed by the Attorney-General's Department of NSW Crime Prevention.

Lismore project officer Ken Morgan said the process went ahead outside of a regular court room. Offenders are charged through the local court system and must plead guilty before they can be referred.

"The Aboriginal Community Justice Advisory Committee will assess the offenders and decide if they are suitable," he said.

Once in the circle, the magistrate and elders discuss how the offender's crime affects the Aboriginal community and their family.

"It gives them a chance to explain themselves, too," Mr Morgan said.

"The court gives elders some control over what's happening and makes the offender more responsible for their actions."

The court will deal with offenders from Goonellabah, Lismore, Gundurimba and Nimbin.

Driving offences, petty theft and unruly behav- iour are some of the offences dealt with by the circle.

"The elders selected for each sentence must know the offender," he said.

The scheme will also be introduced at Kempsey, Bourke, Armidale and in Western Sydney.

nAN information day will be held at the Indigerelate Family Healing Centre at Rous Road Shopping Centre at Goonellabah on November 8, from 10am-3pm. Contact 6623 3620.



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