The specialist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Galambany Circle Sentencing process has existed as part of the ACT Magistrates Court jurisdiction since 2004, when it was named the Ngambra Circle Sentencing Court. The change of name from ‘Ngambra’ to ‘Galambany’ was recommended by participants in the Circle Court and agreed to by the ACT Elected Body and Ngunnawal Council of Elders in 2010. 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 on Ngunnawal country today. It is also inclusive of non Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, many of whom support the functions and operations of the Circle Court.
The purpose of the Circle Sentencing Court is to provide a culturally relevant sentencing option in the ACT Magistrates Court jurisdiction for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have offended.
The specialist Circle Sentencing process gives the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community an opportunity to work collaboratively with the ACT criminal justice system to address over representation issues and offending behaviour.
Until recently the ACT Circle Sentencing Court only dealt with adult defendants (people who have offended) but has now expanded to include young people who have offended. The Circle Court differs from mainstream sentencing processes in a number of ways:
- The Circle Court 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 has led and has capacity to continue to enhance relationships between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and the ACT criminal justice system.