'New blood' to fill Murri Court void

A ROCKHAMPTON elder is calling upon fresh indigenous blood to fill the void left by the Government's axing of the Murri Court.

Elder Connie Coolwell reflected on the impact this decision could have on the community and said she regretted the court would no longer operate within the region, and the State.

The Murri Court was created in 2002 to combat the issue of crime committed by indigenous youth by having local elders address the young criminals in an attempt to stop them from re-offending.

Ms Coolwell, who had been involved with Murri Court since it's inception, said the program would be missed from the Rockhampton community and had achieved many positive results.

"We would have people come through, and you would see them only the once because they did not re-offend; there were others who we just couldn't get through to, regardless of how much we tried," she said.

"But for the most part we did some really good work and made a positive impact on some people's lives that would not have happened otherwise."

The Murri Court system was also highly praised by Govenor-General Quentin Bryce, who spoke in depth about the positives of it in Rockhampton in 2009, referring to it as a "remarkable movement within our justice system".

"...in the Murri Court I found something different. Beyond the sacredness of law, a rich and compassionate wisdom shining through the faces of the Elders.

"I am encouraged by the momentum of these courts, and by the energy of the conversations that are poised to unfold here - in this your second national conference on a topic that is only just beginning to find its place in our collective mind and soul."

However, this is in stark contrast to the reasons offered by Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Jarrod Bleijie who said the Murri Court system did not work effectively.

"The Murri Court was not delivering consistent results and did not justify the amount being spent to keep it operating," he said.

"The program was not reducing imprisonment rates for indigenous offenders and has not stopped recidivism in the short term.

"This is because many offenders return to their communities where they are exposed to the same levels of unemployment and drug and alcohol use.

"While the program itself will no longer be funded by the State Government, magistrates will retain the discretion to take into account the input of indigenous elders," Mr Bleijie said.