Our future court: Koori Design and Koori justice, will they be the same?
As the new Bendigo court is being built there has obviously been much thought put into the design. The official website tells us the future court has taken inspiration from both the grand and humble buildings of our architectural heritage. So I take it that the design will emulate the grandeur of our cathedrals and at the same time embrace the egalitarianism of our ubiquitous miners’ cottages. It’s quite a challenge but the architects, John Wardle, Architects, have a reputation in Australia for sympathetically combining heritage and state of the art buildings.
As to the actual function of the new court it will be the first regional court in Victoria to provide specialist courts for amongst other groups, the Koori community.
It will service the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, Children’s Court of Victoria, and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, as well as the Supreme Court of Victoria, County Court of Victoria and Federal Circuit Court on a circuit basis.
As for the Koori community specialist court, the collaboration between the architects and Dja Dja Wurrung representatives appears to be stunningly ambitious. Architecturally, the two nods to indigenous culture include an image of the creation-being, Bunjil. The eagle will soar four levels high and will be built into the building’s copper fabric.
The second Koori element will be a welcoming courtyard paved to symbolise a smoking ceremony and landscaped to symbolise the distinctive granite outcrops, water features and native flora of Dja Dja Wurrung Country.
While the design is culturally sensitive, we can only hope this sensitivity goes beyond mere tokenism. Historically, courts have proved to be an intimidating environment for Aboriginal people where lack of advocacy has been detrimental to custodial outcomes. Let’s assume the new architecture is signalling actual structural changes which will improve welfare outcomes for Koori people. Hopefully we will no longer see indigenous people over-represented in our gaols; and importantly, disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal deaths in custody will have become a thing of the past.
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