The majority of community courts ceased to exist in the Northern Territory in 2009 leaving many Indigenous communities without a fair go in court.
It meant vital information behind why a crime might have been committed - unaddressed trauma, unresolved grief or fetal alcohol syndrome - was not brought to the table, leading to harsher penalties research says causes more harm.
Two years into drafting the NT Aboriginal Justice Agreement, director of the Aboriginal Justice Unit Leanne Liddle has had thousands of discussions with people in even the most remote communities in the Territory.
Reestablishing community courts, she says, is the key to restoring law and order in Katherine.
"Aboriginal people are saying courts in Katherine are not allowing for enough information for a fair go," she said.
"And there is not the opportunity at bush court to bring that level of information to the judge to make an informed decision - which often leads to rehabilitation.
"We have been told community courts need to be brought back, the judge needs to be assisted by someone who can tell them the history of the defendant."
Time restraints, a lack of cultural awareness, and an ever increasing court list which can often have more than 100 names means lawyers simply don't have time to delve into each of their client's backgrounds.
"There is a need for champions in court - better judicial officers who understand the importance of their role in deterring offenders from becoming more deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system."
The Northern Territory has the highest incarceration rates in the country (almost 1,000 prisoners per 100,000 people). And Indigenous Australians make up 84 per cent of the NT's prison population.
The Aboriginal Justice Agreement is a long overdue response to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which handed in its final report in 1991.
It aims to address the over representation of Indigenous people in the justice system, and reestablish leadership.
Last week, Ms Liddle and her team visited Katherine for the second time to glean vital feedback from community members as the agreement enters its second draft.
Over two years, the team has conducted 120 consultations across the NT, visiting everywhere from the smallest islands where people had said they had never been consulted before, to Darwin, and Alice Springs.
"We have been asking people what would make a difference," she said, "the most pressing point people said again and again was they wanted justice addressed."
A history marked by colonisation and dislocation from land, culture and authority have contributed to the current disadvantages and unfair treatment of Indigenous people, the draft agreement document has found.
During the consultations, a number of Indigenous people voiced "experiences of being treated unfairly in their dealings with justice agencies."
"There was also a common perception that there is a strikingly low level of empathy towards Aboriginal defendants... by some professionals working in the justice system."
One person told Ms Liddle, "most people who go to jail see it as a second home."
She said a lack of investment in community leadership and mentors was making it almost impossible to create safe communities or address swelling incarceration rates.
"Establishing a voice is critical to restoring law and order," she said.
"The government is failing potential leaders in communities, they are not resourced well and that is what community courts will do."
Ms Liddle is proposing the establishment of five law and justice groups in the Katherine region and the reestablishment of community courts.
"During consultations, concerns were expressed that existing mechanisms to provide information about an offender's background (including pre-existing sentencing reports) are inadequate and fail to capture an offender's history," the document states.
Ms Liddle said, community courts "can only help" Katherine's high crime rate.
"It would restore cultural authority. We have heard youth are not listening to elders any more, and that people want to change but there is no support.
"I understand the angst [Katherine residents] feel when you feel like you are powerless, but unless you address the causes of offending we will always have high rates of crime."
The Lajamanu Kurdiji Law and Justice group is one of the remaining few across the NT, and while severely underfunded and unsupported, it has managed to take an active leadership role in the community.
During consultations in Lajamanu, Ms Liddle and her team found the group was able to "manage and diffuse conflict, violence and alcohol and drug misuse in the community."
It also provided "input into criminal court sentencing matters through reference letters and advice to the judge on local cultural matters."
The final agreement is expected to be completed before the 2020 election.
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