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Lucy McCallum to replace retiring Helen Murrell as ACT Supreme Court chief justice | The Canberra Times


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The ACT’s next chief justice hopes to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people behind bars, saying this “national tragedy” requires an approach that is not just “white people telling blackfellas what to do”. Justice Lucy McCallum says she is also keen to look at anything that might reduce the overall number of people in prison, signalling an intention to prioritise new ways of rehabilitating offenders over “endless punitive measures”. The experienced judge made candid comments outside the ACT Supreme Court on Tuesday following the announcement she will take on its top job in March. Justice McCallum, who is currently on the NSW Court of Appeal bench, will become the ACT’s sixth chief justice when she replaces the retiring Helen Murrell. The appointment will bring Justice McCallum, a NSW Supreme Court judge since 2008, back to the territory more than 30 years after she worked as a prosecutor in Canberra. She made a brief visit to the city with her partner on Tuesday afternoon, joking that there were “certainly more restaurants” these days. “We’ve just come to Canberra today and, driving around, I’m surprised so much still feels and looks the same,” the judge said. “It’s a very friendly town.” Justice McCallum, who plans to live in a rural setting with her horses, dogs and “caravan of animals”, left the ACT in 1990 when self-government was still very new. She told reporters she was excited about working with the current government, to the extent that was appropriate, now the system was firmly entrenched. “From my own personal point of view, in terms of criminal justice, I’m keen to look at any policies and proposals that will be directed to rehabilitation rather than endless punitive measures,” Justice McCallum said. “Overcrowding in prisons is a problem for all Australians. “It’s expensive, and it doesn’t necessarily address the problems that take people to prison. “I’m interested in looking at any measures that will improve the incarceration rates and improve the rehabilitation rates for offenders.” Justice McCallum noted her particular interest in addressing the nationwide problem of Indigenous people being overrepresented in prisons. The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are locked up at a rate of 1768 people per 100,000 adults in the ACT. When looking at the entire ACT population, that falls to 112 people per 100,000 adults. MORE COURT AND CRIME NEWS: Justice McCallum said most Australian judges would regard the overrepresentation issue as “a national tragedy”. “I do have some ideas [to address this] that I’ve been developing myself for a number of years, but I don’t have the feel for this jurisdiction that I would need to have to articulate whether those are good ideas at the moment,” she said. “I think one thing is to develop systems that engage respectfully with those communities. “It can’t be white people telling blackfellas what to do. “We have to engage respectfully and hopefully get Indigenous elders on board.” Justice McCallum acknowledged that Chief Justice Murrell, the first woman to ever hold the ACT Supreme Court’s top job, would be “a hard act to follow”. Chief Justice Murrell has spent eight years at the helm, with her tenure marked by things like the construction of a new courthouse, the introduction of drug and alcohol treatment orders as a sentencing option, and the tough task of keeping cases running during the COVID-19 pandemic. Justice McCallum said the work of her predecessor had helped create “an extremely strong court”. ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury also paid tribute to Chief Justice Murrell, who will retire in March, saying “all Canberrans owe her a debt of gratitude for her outstanding contributions to the ACT’s system of justice”. Mr Rattenbury said Justice McCallum was the pick of a “high-calibre” field of 17 applicants to replace the outgoing trailblazer. He added that he hoped a new resident judge would be appointed by February to fill the vacancy created by the recent retirement of Justice John Burns. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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