QLS welcomes reopening of state’s first Murri Court
13 April 2016
Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts has welcomed the announcement of the reintroduction of Murri Courts across Queensland to commence in Rockhampton.
Mr Potts said reopening Murri Courts across Queensland was a positive step toward reducing the appalling rate of Indigenous imprisonment across the state.
The comments follow the announcement by Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath that Rockhampton would be the first of 13 Murri Courts to open across Queensland.
Ms D’Ath said Murri Courts were an important tool in diverting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people from the criminal justice system, where they remain over-represented in Queensland.
“Murri Courts first began operation in 2002 in response to the disproportionate number of ATSI people who were incarcerated in Queensland jails but ceased their vital function after being axed by the previous LNP government in 2012,” Ms D’Ath said.
The announcement comes seven weeks after QLS called for reforms to reduce Indigenous incarceration rates.
Mr Potts said it was time for the state and federal governments to set “aspirational targets" to reduce incarceration of Indigenous Australians and implement strategies and policies to guarantee positive outcomes.
He said the current estimated cost of incarceration in Queensland was $66,000 per prisoner each year – while the cost of keeping a person fed, clothed, with a roof over their head and a university education was about $38,000.
Federal Productivity Commission figures from 2013/14 show the number of Indigenous Australians imprisoned was 16 times higher than non-Indigenous people.
“Statistics show that it costs more to incarcerate a person for five years than it would to send them to one of Queensland’s best universities. I know how I’d rather my taxes be spent," Mr Potts said.
“Courts like the Murri Court and the Drug Court have been successful in reducing reoffending and incarceration, and it is good to see them on the way back in Queensland."
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