We teach all hearts to break, but can we mend them? Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Aboriginal Sentencing Courts


Aboriginal Sentencing Courts are not generally understood as ‘therapeutic jurisprudence’. This essay explores a particular Aboriginal Sentencing Court – the Shepparton Koori Court – from its establishment through its first two years of operation at a time when the author was the inaugural Koori Court magistrate in the north east region of Victoria. It is suggested that this court was broadly and particularly representative of therapeutic jurisprudence principles for all involved in its operations. It is not suggested that this court provided a ‘medicalised’ jurisprudence, but rather a healing culturally sensitive approach, across cultures. Shame, articulation, conversation, dialogue and the incorporation of Aboriginal people’s viewpoints all deliver therapeutic jurisprudence in ways little understood by judicial officers and other ‘black letter’ law theorists who remain committed to mechanical, inflexible and rigid notions of the separation of powers/independence of the judiciary.

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