Murri Court comes to an end

Uncle Albert at the Richlands Courthouse, he is dissapointed about the closure of the Murri Court. Photo: Inga Williams / The Satellite
Uncle Albert at the Richlands Courthouse, he is dissapointed about the closure of the Murri Court. Photo: Inga Williams / The Satellite

FOUNDING member of the Murri Court in Brisbane Uncle Albert Holt says the State Government will need to start building more prisons after it announced the closure of the indigenous, Drug and Special Circumstances courts.

He said the government had opened the flood gates to state jails with Aboriginal children already comprising around 70% of the prison population in Queensland, Western Australian and the Northern Territory.

"It is absolutely disgraceful for the elders who participated in the Murri Court," Mr Holt said.

"It's unacceptable the over representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system. We've got a lost generation just in our jails.

"The government didn't even have the decency to address the issue with the elders and I think that's abysmal."

Mr Holt helped found the Murri Court 11 years ago and represented indigenous offenders at the Richlands and Brisbane Magistrate Courts.

"We were successful in connecting with young people in the criminal justice system, and helping them to try and seek an alternative to incarceration," he said.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie said the decision to stop funding the Murri Court program was made because it was not working 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.

"We are making the hard decisions to cut government spending so we can stabilise the debt.

"The only alternative is to put up government fees and charges."

But in a statement to parliament Federal Member for Blair Shayne Neumann defended the role of the Murri Court, describing the move as disgraceful.

He said the cost to run the Murri Court bail program was a quarter of the cost of sending an offender to prison.

"During the hearings of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs in 2010-11 and onwards, which I chaired, we discovered that indigenous juveniles were 28 times more likely to be in detention than non-indigenous juveniles," he said.

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