Family law advice to aid indigenous families

Shannon BeattieNorth West Telegraph
Chief Judge Stephen Thackray being tutored in the Martu language by local interpreter, Desmond Taylor.
Camera IconChief Judge Stephen Thackray being tutored in the Martu language by local interpreter, Desmond Taylor. Credit: Supplied

In an Australian first, Aboriginal families in the East Pilbara will soon be able to seek family law advice and get a family court hearing without leaving Newman.

From Monday, July 30, to Friday, August 3, the Family Court of Western Australia will visit Newman as part of a new initiative to provide special family law services for Aboriginal families.

Local people will be able to make an application to a judge or a magistrate without an appointment or having to fill out paperwork, with a Family Court counsellor on-site to assist. 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.

The initiative is the first of its kind in the country and is being led by Chief Judge Stephen Thackray, who will be working with interpreter Desmond Taylor, who speaks many languages from the Western Desert region.

Chief Judge Thackray said he hoped this new approach would provide a more accessible service for Aboriginal families in the area.

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

The Chief Judge and Magistrate Eric Martino will sit with a senior Aboriginal lore man, who will assist in ensuring decisions are culturally appropriate.

Chief Judge Thackray said a focus would be formalising arrangements where family members such as grandparents or aunties were looking after children.

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

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