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Indigenous sentencing courts and partner violence

Author(s) Marchetti, Elena
Title Indigenous sentencing courts and partner violence: perspectives of court practitioners and elders on gender power imbalances during the sentencing hearing
Source The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 2010, Vol. 43, No. 2, pp263-281
Date 2010
Document type Journal article
Coverage Australia
Summary This article explores the process of Indigenous sentencing courts and the role of the Elders when dealing with family violence offences, and in particular intimate partner violence. The Indigenous sentencing courts in Australia do not practice or adopt Indigenous customary laws but instead use Australian criminal laws and procedures when sentencing indigenous people, while allowing Indigenous Elders to participate in the process. For this study five courts were chosen: Dubbo and Nowra in New South Wales and Mt Isa, Rockhampton and Brisbane in Queensland. The courts operated differently with more involvement by the Elders in the Circle Court model in Dubbo and Nowra. Using observation and semi-structured interviews the author examines the contentious issue regarding the presence of gendered power imbalances and confirmed they were not always addressed in an Indigenous sentencing court hearing. However, the majority of responses from interviewees who talked about power imbalances thought that the presence of the Elders and giving the victim an opportunity to tell their story reduced that imbalance of power to some degree. The degree of harm done by the offender was also featured in these hearings. The role of the victim was examined and also the recognition that the offender is also a victim of colonisation. Further research is recommended where there is comparison with other types of court processes.
Keywords Indigenous; circle court; family violence; intimate partner violence; power imbalance.
Topic Domestic violence