Jobs Events Advertise

Long-time justice advocate sworn in as Northern Territory's first Aboriginal judge

Giovanni Torre -

The Northern Territory's first Aboriginal judge David Woodroffe was sworn in on Monday morning.

Mr Woodroffe has worked with the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency for more than ten years, including as its principal legal officer, and has more than 20 years' experience as a lawyer in the Territory.

He is a descendant of the Jingili Modburra clan group, and his grandmother Elsie and father Ronald were members of the Stolen Generations.

Mr Woodroffe was sworn in by NT Supreme Court judge Stephen Southwood at Darwin's Local Court.

NAAJA chairperson Colleen Rosas said First Nations people were proud of the Territory's newest judge.

"I know I had tears in my eyes because we've said this for so long â€" we've said we should have our own people judging us, people who know where we're coming from," she told the ABC.

Mr Woodroffe, now an acting Local Court judge, worked as co-chair of the Northern Territory's Aboriginal Justice Agreement.

In a recent interview with National Indigenous Times, Mr Woodroffe said the Territory's justice system needed to change.

"The justice system can't keep going the way it is going," he said.

"Our prisons are full, Aboriginal children are going into custody (and) Aboriginal women.

"Building more prisons and police stations, and tough on crime policies are not the answer. We need to get back to community-based solutions."

Mr David Woodroffe sworn in by Stephen Southwood QC. Photo - NT Courts.

Mr Woodroffe said one of the most important features of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement was the recognition that in order to address over-incarceration of Aboriginal people and disenfranchisement from the justice system, government must work in partnership with Aboriginal people and communities.

"The primary focus is to give back power and autonomy to Aboriginal people and communities, through measures including reinstating community courts," he said.

Mr Woodroffe has been a strong advocate of Elders and community leaders applying cultural knowledge to community courts to deliver a tailored approach to solving problems.

"We are dealing with the legacy not only of the Intervention, which stripped away power and authority from Aboriginal people and communities and our Elders, but also the legacy of successive governments over decades not properly investing in justice for Aboriginal communities," he said.

In May, Mr Woodroffe came out strongly against a Territory government decision to cap damages for legal wrongs occurring in youth and adult prisons in the Territory at $15,300 in the Northern Territory Parliament passed the Personal Injuries (Liabilities and Damages) Amendment Bill 2022.

"This is a further dark chapter in the Territory's history of failing to ensure the safety and full protection of the law for Aboriginal victims of government wrongdoing and abuse," he said.

   Related Articles   

   More by Giovanni Torre