Bush Court: administering criminal court process and corrective services in remote Aboriginal communities


Over a six-month period beginning July 2000, the author researched eight different Bush Courts in remote communities throughout the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and evaluated the level of legal assistance provided at such courts, the availability of victim and offender programs, the success of diversionary programs, the level of judicial education, the adaptation of the Bush Court to the environment in which it operates, and the adequacy of the process compared with similar services in surrounding town and city courts. Some of the specific areas detailed by the research include: the absence of specialist courts (such as children’s courts); the total absence of interpreters; problems caused by ‘dry community’ by laws; the loss of culture and the problem of status earned by young offenders for ‘doing time’; the success and failure of various diversionary programs; the use of cultural projects as part of diversionary schemes and the Community Development Employment Projects scheme (CDEP); domestic violence prosecution at Bush Courts; obstacles met by particular corrections programs and techniques in remote Aboriginal communities and recommendations for more effective approaches in delivering them; methods of dealing with the high proportion of driving offences and fine defaults; and the ingredients for successful crime prevention oriented services in remote Aboriginal communities.

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