PLEASE COME BACK: Bundjalung man and former Aboriginal Legal Service liaison officer Avery Brown presents departing magistrate Robyn Denes with a ceremonial boomerang, indicating she is welcome back on Bundjalung land anytime.
PLEASE COME BACK: Bundjalung man and former Aboriginal Legal Service liaison officer Avery Brown presents departing magistrate Robyn Denes with a ceremonial boomerang, indicating she is welcome back on Bundjalung land anytime. Tim Howard

Local magistrate earned respect

MAGISTRATE Robyn Denes knows she is welcome back at Grafton and Maclean local courts any time.

Ms Denes, who handed down her last decision at Grafton yesterday, is about to return to Sydney, but takes with her a boomerang, a symbol that she can return anytime.

Bundjalung man and former Aboriginal Legal Service court liaison officer Avery Brown organised the boomerang as recognition for the special efforts Ms Denes made as magistrate to work with his community over the nine years she has served on the North Coast, and particularly the past four at Grafton and Maclean.

"It's pretty straight- forward,” Mr Brown said.

"As a Bundjalung man, this is a gift to Robyn to let her know she's welcome back on our land any time.”

When Ms Denes started working on the North Coast court circuits, she was struck by the number of people failing to appear.

She was happy to take up an offer from Mr Brown to show her around the community in the Upper Clarence where he grew up.

"As a country magistrate

I feel it's a real privilege to be in a country town and part of the community,”

she said.

Mr Brown said the magistrate's visit to the Malabugilmah and Baryulgil communities had created a positive impression.

"Most of the people were happy you were there,” he said. "It showed you were compassionate and could empathise with them.”

Ms Denes said there was a line she had to tread between her position as a magistrate and being part of a community.

"Obviously I'm a figure- head, but one of the things of having been on the Northern Rivers for a long time is that I get to know some of the families.

"I get to understand what their problems are.”

She said the distance from the communities to the court house was an issue, but it was not the only one.

"It wasn't until I saw how far away that it actually is,” she said.

"If you don't have much money for fuel then it's really hard.”

She said family dynamics, including feuds between families could also could create a problem for a person trying to get to court.

"I remember when I

went out to Tabulam, it was not until I met with some of the Elders out there that I knew there was a problem with the community bus,” she said.

"It was being run by a family and they wouldn't

let different families on

the bus.

"If I didn't know that, then people are not here, but I don't know that there's a reason.

"Issues were raised with the Land Council and I think they fixed it.”

Ms Denes said mutual respect had to be earned.

"They're not going to respect me because I'm a white fella coming in, with my law,” she said.



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