Is white justice delivery in black communities by 'Bush Court' a factor in Aboriginal over-representation within our legal system?


Based on field research conducted throughout remote Aboriginal communities, this article evaluates the Bush Court system operating throughout the Northern Territory and Western Australia. The article examines features that differentiate the Bush Court system from the Magistrates Court system as it operates throughout the rest of Australia; prejudices against Indigenous defendants manifested by the Bush Court, including lack of understanding and lack of interpreters; the effect of Bush Court case numberson the quality of justice served; the factors contributing to high caseloads at Bush Courts, including substance abuse, the predominance of driving and public order offences, and the effect of different policing standards for Indigenous people; the legislation and practices that facilitate abuse of police powers and pervert Bush Court justice; and the problem of the Western Australian Justice of the Peace Court. The article concludes that if a sub standard court system is allowed to continue to govern Aboriginal people, we cannot expect the tragic and unjustified over representation of Aboriginal people in custody to diminish.

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