A man who violently beat his ex-partner while their two-week-old baby lay nearby was hugged by elders after being released from jail in the ACT’s circle sentencing court on Wednesday (12 May).
The 35-year-old Wiradjuri man was in the Galambany Court, a restorative justice system that includes establishing a connection between First Nations defendants and community elders.
Court documents describe the man’s two sets of vicious offences, with the first in December 2019 when he punched and kicked his ex-partner, smashed a ceramic coffee cup in her face and jumped on her stomach.
Afterwards, the woman told police that she may be pregnant, and she hoped she had not lost her baby.
The man was arrested then released from jail on bail in July 2020, but one month later, police were again called to the woman’s house, and she met them at the door, covered in blood.
“My ex was here. He bashed the f–k out of me,” she told them.
She said he had hit her in the head several times, including with a support slat from her bed.
When police arrived, they saw the former couple’s two-week-old baby was sitting in a baby bouncer in the middle of the lounge room.
Several weeks later, the man was arrested. He was found hiding in a cupboard in nothing but his underwear.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of assault before he came before the Galambany Court. He sat around a circular table at an equal height with three elders, lawyers and Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker.
During the hearing, the elders talked with him, attempting to connect with him and gain a sense of why he committed his crimes.
The man told the elders he had been using the drug ‘ice’, and claimed the woman had been abusive towards him.
“I just retaliated in the wrong way,” he said.
He said did not know his ex was pregnant the first time he assaulted her, and he did not hit her with the bed slat during the second assault, claiming she had fallen.
Jingili elder Uncle Allan Sambono said there was no excuse for violence, and he was particularly worried about the man’s child being present for the second attack.
“Violence is not something we condone in any community, let alone the Aboriginal community,” he said.
“In essence, you injured two people that day, mum and babe.”
Uncle Allan asked the man what would happen if the man himself had daughters who grew up to be assaulted by their partners.
“I’m going to look back and think ‘I was like that’,” the man replied.
“What am I going to say to my kids when I get older?”
The man’s mother, who had come to support her son, was invited to the table by Uncle Allan to speak about why he should be released.
His mother told the elders that there was a factory accident at one of her son’s previous jobs. One of his friends had their arms caught in a machine and he had to hold them until the ambulance arrived.
“He suffers,” she said.
“He wants to come home to country. He wants to go back to where he knows.”
Chief Magistrate Walker later said the workplace accident had obviously had a significant impact on him.
Wiradjuri elder Aunty Roseanne Longford told the man he had to heal himself before he could do anything else.
“You’ve got to heal yourself before you can have relationships with anybody,” she said.
“We sit here; this is what we do because we care about our people, and we don’t want to see you in the AMC (the Alexander Maconochie Centre).
“You’re a young man. You have a lot to offer, even to younger people. So get yourself healed.”
The man had spent 368 days in jail and Chief Magistrate Walker sentenced him to 23 months behind bars but suspended part of his sentence. He has been released with time served and put on an 18-month good behaviour order.
“This is your way to move forwards,” Aunty Rose told him.
The elders hugged the man before he left the courtroom. He could be seen blinking back tears as he walked away.