Program to reduce children's risk
LISMORE'S Aboriginal elders will take part in a new court process to help decide the future of Aboriginal children at risk of abuse or neglect.
The Care Circles program began in Nowra in 2008 and is being expanded to Lismore following a positive independent evaluation.
The program typically involves the child's parents, lawyers, the magistrate and Aboriginal elders sitting in a circle and discussing the case.
For some cases there will be a representative of another relevant organisation such as the Department of Community Services,
Indigenous culture and customs are taken into account in order to increase the acceptance of judgments.
NSW Police Aboriginal community liaison officer and Bundjalung elder Aunty Ros Sten said she was pleased the Care Circles would be conducted outside of court.
"That's the way we do business - our business. Sometimes you need the earth around you - the fresh air - and it's about being comfortable."
Elders would be able to share their views on care matters relating to where children should live or what assistance parents might need to help care for their children.
The Care Circles cannot deal with whether children should have been removed by the Department of Community Services in the first place and the magistrate will continue to have the final say on what should happen.
Ms Sten said she hoped the program would make Aboriginal people feel less alienated by the justice system.
"It's about what is out there, who the service providers are and where you can access help," she said.
NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith SC, said he hoped Aboriginal elders would act as mentors to younger community members.
"By allowing the elders and other community leaders to participate it takes away the, as it were, white culture forced on the Aboriginal people," he said.
"It helps raise the confidence of the Aboriginal people."