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Court heads bush to help remote families

Aboriginal families in the East Pilbara will have free family law legal advice and will be able to get a Family Court hearing without having to make an appointment later this month.

In an Australian-first, the Family Court of WA will visit the mining town of Newman, 1195kms north of Perth, for a week from July 30 to provide a special family law service for Aboriginal families.

People will be able to make an application to a judge or a magistrate without an appointment or having to fill out paperwork. A Family Court counsellor will also be on site to assist.

A local interpreter who speaks languages from the Western Desert region will work with the judge and magistrate to help people coming to the court.

Six lawyers from the Aboriginal Legal Service, Aboriginal Family Law Services and Legal Aid WA will be available to give free legal advice about child protection matters and family law.

Chief Judge Stephen Thackray will head the initiative, which runs from 9.45am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Most of the hearings will be held in a meeting room at Newman House rather than in a courtroom.

Justice Thackray said he hoped the new approach would provide a more accessible and much-needed service for Aboriginal families in the area.

“It is too hard for people from remote communities to get access to the Family Court,” he said. “We hope that a more informal approach will suit many people from this region, particularly those whose first language is not English.”

Chief Judge Thackray has consulted with local elders who have named the venture the Djidji Nyitti, or the Little Children, project.

A senior Aboriginal lore man will sit with Justice Thackray and Magistrate Eric Martino to help make sure decisions are culturally-appropriate.

Chief Judge Thackray said that a major focus of the week will be formalising arrangements where family members such as grandparents or aunties are already looking after children.

“The court will be able to make orders to give those family members the legal power to make parenting decisions about issues such as health and education,” he said.

There will a public forum at the Sports Pavilion at Boomerang Oval on August 2 at 5.15 pm.

The visiting judges and lawyers will also join activities for the 2018 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day on August 3.

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