Parliamentary record : Part I debates (27 February 1990)
Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990
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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Tuesday 27 February 1990 accessible to ordinary people as their historical predecessors were,. despite the fact that the spirit of the earlier situation remains embodied in the Justices Act. I remind honourable members that justices of the peace were able, and in some jurisdictions still are, to sit in relation to particular local matters. It is conceivable that a justices system could provide the dispute resolution service. However, in positions involving the resolution of disputes, the tendency has been to require a greater level of training than has been available to justices of the peace. The old justices system relied to some extent on the fact that the justices frequently knew the people before them and were therefore in a position to resolve disputes before they reached the point of violence. I suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that such an approach would have some merit on Aboriginal communities. I have no doubt that the member for Victoria River has a similar experience as I have in seeing disputes on Aboriginal communities reach a pitch which results in violence. I believe that consideration needs to be given to the circumstances which can resolve those disputes with less violence than has been the case hitherto, and I think that considerable work can be done in that regard. It is one of those areas of commun i ty deve 1 opment, of Abori gina 1 people comi ng to terms wi th what is essentially a sedentary lifestyle that was alien to them a generation or 2 ago. I believe that we have a responsibility to use reports like this and apply them to Territory conditions in that way. I am not suggesting that we slavishly adopt this particular recommendation of alternative dispute mechanisms or alternative dispute settlement services, as recommendation 91 has it, because essentially they are built up in urban circumstances which are entirely different from circumstances in the Territory, but I believe that a great deal of work can be done in that area. In closing, I would like to emphasise again our responsibility as legislators. I believe that our responsibility as legislators is to respond realistically to levels of violence. Let us bear in mind that violence in the Territory community, as is the case in the rest of Australia, is not evenly. spread through the community. As I said, the greater proportion of violent crime is restricted to the Aboriginal community in the Territory and therefore I believe that we have a responsibility to be realistic and encourage in the community realistic perceptions. of violence and its application in the Territory, and I trust that government members will do that. It is very tempting, particularly for right wing, law and order politicians, to exacerbate that perception of possible violence on the part of the commun i ty and to encourage the commun ity to be fearful, instead of being realistic in assisting people to understand what their chances are and developing strategies along the lines outlined by this report and, at least in part, by the Chief Minister, so that law and order in the Territory can be enhanced and the cri mi na 1 justice system can be corroborated and not corrupted. Mr MANZIE (Attorney-General): Mr Speaker, rise to support the comments of the Chief Minister regarding the report of the National Committee on Violence. Before proceeding, I would like to pass some quick comments on the remarks of the member for MacDonnell. I agree that we have to be very careful not to overreact to the statistics which continuously appear in relation to violent crime in the Territory. We certainly have to acknowledge that it is a most serious problem, and one which must be dealt with by this House. I believe, however, that all members of this House would agree that they would. rather walk the streets of Darwin or Alice Springs than those of Kings Cross or St Kilda. I certainly feel much 8744
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