Australian indigenous sentencing courts: restoring culture in the sentencing court process



Publication Details

E. Marchetti, 'Australian indigenous sentencing courts: restoring culture in the sentencing court process' in J. Bolitho, J. Bruce and G. Mason(ed), Restorative Justice: Adults and Emerging Practice (2012) 100-120.


Indigenous sentencing courts use Australian criminal laws and procedures when sentencing Indigenous adult offenders, but they include the involvement and input of Indigenous Elders and Community Representatives. All courtrooms contain Indigenous insignia, and the court space is shifted or remodelled to make the hearings more conducive to discussion and for the input of Indigenous knowledge. Notions of restorative justice have been associated with processes used in these courts due to their apparent informality and their reliance on principles of re-integrative shaming (Dick, 2004). In fact, the 'restorativeness' of the processes goes deeper than that since the establishment of the courts reflect an attempt and desire to correct the harmful and disadvantageous impact the Anglo-Saxon criminal court process has had on Indigenous Australians. Since the first Indigenous sentencing court was established in Port Adelaide, South Australia, in June 1999, a number of reports and articles have been published about how the courts operate (Marchetti and Daly, 2005; 2007), whether they reduce recidivism (see, for example, Fitzgerald, 2008; Morgan and Louis, 2010), and how they accommodate victims (Marchetti 2010). Although this chapter summarises these previous studies, it particularly focuses on the impact of the presence of Indigenous art, space, symbols and knowledge on a mainstream adult sentencing court process to determine whether or not such cultural inclusiveness makes any difference to the manner in which justice is administered and ultimately received.

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