Chief Minister Natasha Fyles Tuesday announced the official appointment of David Woodroffe as a Judge of the Local Court of the Northern Territory. Woodroffe was sworn in by Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Stephen Southwood, at a ceremony at the Supreme Court of Northern Territory in Australia. Woodroffe, a former Principal Legal Officer at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), has been acting in the position since July 2022. Woodroffe is the first Aboriginal judge appointed in the territory.Woodroffe is a Mudburra and Jingili descent from around the Newcastle Waters region in the center of the Northern Territory. His grandparents were members of the Stolen Generation, which motivated him to pursue a career in law. Woodroffe said:I wanted to study law for my family, so that in some way I could ensure that injustices such as the Stolen Generation would never happen to Aboriginal people and my family again.Woodroffe told the National Indigenous Times (NIT) that being the first Aboriginal judge plays a small part in creating greater diversity and expanding the inclusivity of the justice system of the Northern Territory. Woodroffe said:The importance and fundamental importance and the positive role of Aboriginal people in the justice system, […] all point to greater inclusivity of Aboriginal people within the justice system and a positive outcome for all people in the Northern Territory.Woodroffe was among the first cohort of Aboriginal lawyers admitted to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in 1999 and has more than 20 years of experience working as a criminal lawyer and a trial advocate in the territory. The recipient of multiple awards, Woodroffe is described to be “a champion of Aboriginal rights and justice for Aboriginal people.”Woodroffe has also been an advocate for aboriginal rights. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rate in Australia was 2,354 per 100,000 persons last year, and the Northern Territory had the second-highest imprisonment rate in the September quarter of 2021, June quarter of 2022, and September quarter of 2022. In August 2021, Woodroffe spoke of the Northern Territory Government’s wide-ranging plan to reduce Indigenous incarceration. Woodroffe stressed the importance of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement (AJA) in recognizing the disenfranchisement of Aboriginal people from the justice system and the obstacles in accessing justice as well as giving back power and autonomy to Aboriginal communities through reinstating community courts.
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