Lajamanu Kurdiji Group members, from left, Peter Jigili, Lamun Tasman, Joe Marshall and, right back, Anthony Johnson.
Senior residents in Lajamanu are actively working to encourage greater respect for Indigenous and non-Indigenous law and justice within the remote Northern Territory community.
From 2011, a governance officer funded by the Australian Government has helped to build up the capacity of the Lajamanu Kurdiji Group for leadership on community safety issues, including proactive conflict resolution, working with offenders and supporting mediation with the police.
The group has also been supported by other organisations, including the Central Land Council and the Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA).
Lajamanu is a Warlpiri community located about 560 kilometres south-west of Katherine. In the local Warlpiri dialect, “kurdiji” means “to shield, block, protect or ward off”. The Lajamanu Kurdiji group is comprised of both men and women from the town.
The Lajamanu Kurdiji group is heavily engaged with the court system, and works closely with NAAJA’s Community Legal Education team to provide feedback and recommendations about offenders to judges. In June 2017, for the first time, select members of the group sat with a judge during court proceedings, including sentencing.
Judge Elisabeth Armitage says the local Elders play an important role in helping the judges, the prosecution and defence lawyers understand the circumstances of people before the court.
Judge Armitage has thanked Kurdiji members for being involved in court proceedings.
“It’s a highlight and privilege to have Kurdiji members involved,” she says.
The group also plays a role supporting offender remediation, often in conjunction with the police. When local youths broke into a community store, the Kurdiji group held a community meeting with the offenders to show them the harm they had caused and behaviour expected of them in the future. The youths apologised for their actions and undertook to uphold a higher standard of conduct.