Long an advocate for social justice, Diane Fingleton introduced the Murri Court. She is a retired Queensland Magistrates Court judge and the first woman ever appointed to the position of Chief Magistrate.
Murri Court – Indigenous Justice?
As part of its RQI Speaker Series, Reconciliation Queensland invited Diane to Mitchelton Library on Saturday, March 16, to speak about her career and her contribution to Indigenous justice.
Before Kevin Rudd’s National Apology, Chief Magistrate Diane Fingleton made an Apology to Indigenous people from the bench. “It was just that they had not always been granted the justice that they deserved,” she said.
Listen to Diane’s speech in full below.
Diane said she decided to champion an apology to Queensland’s Indigenous peoples when she heard in 2000 that the Chief Justice in Victoria had, in the spirit of reconciliation, recently held a series of similar apology ceremonies.
Despite that Chief Magistrate later losing his job for carrying out the ceremonies, along with other matters, Diane said, “I was proud of him for doing it”.
“So I had set out with the goal, quite honestly with the magistrates, to make the Magistrates Court of Queensland more relevant and accountable to all Queenslanders which it served,” Diane said
“And I saw the attraction to Indigenous people of such an apology coming from the magistrates courts around Queensland, where after all, most of the justice handed out to Queenslanders comes from,” she said.
“I consulted with the magistrates on the Indigenous issues committee of the Queensland magistracy, about six of us and two Indigenous magistrates then appointed, and we decided to go ahead with ceremonies throughout Queensland at approximately the same time on the same day,” Diane said.
“What I did is called leading from the front. I knew I had the right to speak on behalf of all magistrates under the Magistrates Act and I took the opportunity to do so.”
Diane explained that the ceremony held at the Roma Street Court attracted numerous journalists as it had achieved a degree of notoriety, “especially when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had come out publicly against the holding of the ceremonies, as he said that is not the role of the courts”.
She documented her controversial trial, imprisonment, and eventual vindication by the High Court of Australia, which quashed her conviction as a miscarriage of justice, in her 2010 book, ‘Nothing To Do with Justice‘.