BADAC recognizes justice system champions | The mail

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Cathy Ward knows her job is challenging, but she loves it all the same. She is the local resident court worker for the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative, on the front line helping the community when things go wrong, from unpaid fines piling up to diversion schemes. It’s confronting, but strong relationships are formed, especially in the most difficult times, such as when a prisoner is about to return to the world. READ MORE: Reparations for Stolen Generation survivors welcome “It’s very rewarding,” she said. “Getting people out of a bad situation, finding them a home, finding them a job, bringing them back into the community and the culture is huge, and to be about to see that and see my clients achieve that possibility is fantastic. ” Last week, Ms Ward won the highest honor at the annual Grampians Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee Awards, which she said was a surprise. Also honored was Uncle Frank Laxton, who has volunteered visiting Indigenous prisoners for more than 30 years, “to ensure that Indigenous men in the justice system remain connected to culture and community, and able exit the system safely and productively”. Mr Laxton said he still appreciates it and is always proud of the results. “It gives me something to do,” he joked. “Instead of sitting at home watching TV, I’m helping the boys and doing something.” It would be sad to see them go out and have nowhere to go, they’re probably backsliding or whatever , but if they have somewhere to go and someone – I’m not telling them what to do – but they know they have someone they can rely on and trust. Ashlee Rodgers was also recognized for her volunteer work with the Aboriginal Community Justice Panel, while Tarni Jarvis was recognized for her work as coordinator of the Dungalayin Mileka program. New Grampians RAJAC John Gorton said it was promising to see such hard work having a positive effect in the community, and said there were new initiatives he hoped would be launched soon in Ballarat. “(There is a) program that we are developing with RMIT, it will be an alternative to Koori Court based on diversion work – instead of going into the court system, hopefully we can divert them to the program, they will have to complete a set of tasks, and if they don’t if they pass, they will not be sent to the justice system,” he said. “In this region, we don’t have much of diversion programs for aboriginal people in particular, and a lot of the work that we’ve done over the last couple of years – Tony Lovett has done a lot of that work – we’re trying to get these programs in place and to get them working by the middle of the year, testing them, and if they work, hopefully we’ll see them in Ballarat as well.” BADAC operations director Jon Kanoa said that community connections on the ground had brought positive results fs for the offenders, and that the volunteers in particular deserved recognition for being past their 9-5 years. IN THE NEWS “It’s no secret that we are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, in the broader Indigenous community across the country,” he said. “Having these programs helps support both our clients and their families who may have to deal with the justice system on a daily basis. “It’s about fixing things as small as fines and sheriff’s warrants, it can really go very far if they don’t get fixed – it’s a little easier for our community to come through our doors rather than the government’s doors, so that they can move forward and hopefully fix some of the issues they are confronted from the point of view of justice. If you’ve signed up for The Courier’s variety of news emails, you can sign up below and make sure you’re up to date with everything that’s going on in Ballarat.