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Pilot Project of a Specialized Approach to the Sentencing of Indigenous Offenders

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Eligible Indigenous offenders will benefit from a sentencing approach more suited to their culture and community, in a new pilot project led by the NSW District Court.

Attorney General Mark Speakman today announced that the Walama List Pilot Project will begin operations in February 2022 at the Sydney Downing Center District Court. Offenders will be brought from the District Courts of Sydney, Parramatta, Campbelltown and Penrith.

“The Walama List Pilot Project aims to further involve the community in the judge’s sentencing process, build confidence in the justice system, and improve the diversion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders to services. essential supports that address the root causes of the offending behavior, ”said Speakman. .

“This program harnesses the wisdom of Indigenous Elders and respected members of the community in sentencing discussions, in addition to providing comprehensive support services and intensive pre-sentencing supervision.

“We are working hand in hand with Indigenous communities to address disproportionate rates of Indigenous incarceration, reduce recidivism and find solutions that work.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Don Harwin said this pilot project will support the government-wide commitment to improving the lives of Indigenous peoples under the National Gap Closing Agreement.

“This groundbreaking initiative goes to the heart of our commitment under the National Accord, integrating Indigenous customs and learnings into the justice system and helping Indigenous people achieve better results.

District Court Chief Justice Judge Derek Price AO said the Sydney Walama List Pilot Project is the next step in the District Court’s commitment to develop a Walama Court and, with it, culturally appropriate responses to convict Indigenous offenders.

“The support from the Attorney General and funding for the pilot project allows for the essential involvement of Elders in sentencing conversations and most importantly for Elders to be compensated for their participation,” said Justice Price.

“The pilot project will be competently managed by Her Honor Judge Dina Yehia SC, who brings all the knowledge of her role as Chair of the Walama Court Working Group and years of work with Indigenous Legal Services at the start of her career. honorary career in law. “

The Walama List Pilot will operate one week per month and can accommodate up to 50 participants at a time. Offenders who plead guilty can participate in a tailored program that includes drug and alcohol treatment, counseling and other therapeutic supports before being sentenced.

The Indigenous Services Unit (ASU) of the Department of Communities and Justice will provide field support for pilot project operations.

ASU Director Edwina Crawford said the pilot will build on the success of other indigenous sentencing courts across New South Wales, which have been shown to reduce the risk of reoffending and improve community confidence in the criminal justice system.

“We know from the successful sentencing circle that shared decision-making between aboriginal people and the judiciary can transform formal court proceedings and have a profound and lasting impact on offenders, ”said Ms. Crawford.

Certain offenses, including prescribed sex offenses and a range of serious violent offenses, are excluded from the pilot project.

Participants benefit from ongoing supervision by social workers, community corrections, and the Walama List Judge to ensure program conditions are met.

Download the Press Release and Backgrounder: Specialized Approach Pilot Project for Sentencing Indigenous Offenders


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