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Court funding 'boost for indigenous justice'

PREMIER Peter Beattie says a $5.2 million funding boost for Queensland's Court system has improved justice for indigenous people.

“What this funding does is it reaffirms the Government's commitment to improving justice services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Mr Beattie said of the three-year cash injection, which comes into effect tomorrow.

Murri Court, established in 2002, is held in Brisbane, Caboolture (north of Brisbane), Rockhampton in central Queensland, Mount Isa in the state's northwest and Townsville in the north.

It is a Queensland Magistrates Court which sentences indigenous offenders who plead guilty “with culturally appropriate justice” and allows input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders and respected members of the offender's community.

A trial Murri Court started recently in Cherbourg, in central Queensland.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for only 3.5 per cent of the Queensland population, but nearly 27 per cent of adult prisoners and 60 per cent of juveniles in detention.

“Our commitment to Murri courts is about getting personal and culturally appropriate justice, and out of that we hope to stop recidivism,” Mr Beattie said.

Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine said a review of the Murri Court system over the past 12 months showed it was working well.

“One of the report's recommendations is to undertake a further independent evaluation of the Court in 2007 and 2008 and the state government has agreed to do this,” he said.

Other review recommendations included implementing a database to monitor the Murri Court's performance, appointing a state-wide manager and six court case co-ordinators, and improving transport and training for elders and respected community leaders.

Mr Beattie also said an additional magistrate would be appointed at Southport on the Gold Coast and would start work in the new year.

He said the appointment was possible after the approval of an extra $1.35 million for the Gold Coast's justice services.

Another $1.39 million would be spent over two years on upgrading the Southport Courthouse.