Since 2004, the Magistrates Court has had a circle sentencing court, now known as the Galambany Court. The purpose of the Galambany Court is to provide effective and restorative processes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants through community involvement in sentencing. The process is also an opportunity for the enhanced involvement of victims.
Galambany means ‘we all, including you’. It is an inclusive word that recognises the various origins of people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent living in the local area today. It is also inclusive of non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, many of whom support the functions and operations of the Galambany Court.
Galambany Court hears matters where the defendant is an adult who has offended. There are a number of requirements that need to be satisfied in order for a matter to be considered eligible for referral to the Galambany Court. These are as follows:
- The defendant identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person and has ties to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, either in the ACT or elsewhere;
- The offence can be finalised in the Magistrates Court;
- The offence is not a sexual offence;
- The defendant has pleaded guilty; and
- The defendant consents to be assessed as to his or her suitability for circle sentencing and agrees to participate fully in the processes of the Galambany Court.
At a sitting of the Galambany Court, the Magistrate sits alongside panel members and Elders who are invited by the Magistrate to contribute to the sentencing process:
- Panel members and Elders contribute to the process in a variety of ways and have a major role in explaining culturally relevant details to the Court; and
- Panel members and Elders also have a role to let the defendant know that they do not accept or tolerate criminal behaviour in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. They also have an opportunity to speak with the defendant to explore ways in which criminal behaviour can be avoided in the future.
The Galambany Court recognises that victims have a right to participate in sentencing matters. To enable victims to be part of the sentencing process, the Galambany Court Coordinator will provide Victim Support ACT (VSACT) with certain information about the matter and will advise the victim of their right to attend the sentencing hearing.
The Galambany Court will continue to enhance relationships between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and the ACT criminal justice system.