Community group to support Indigenous youths through court
A PASSION for law and an absence of support for Indigenous youth who front Hervey Bay court has caught the interest of Butchulla woman Eileen Clarke.
Last week, the Bachelor of Law student ran a meet-and-greet with the newly formed Hervey Bay Community Justice Group.
It was a proud moment for Ms Clarke who has worked on the project for more than 13 months.
The mother-of-five was contacted by the Attorney General to gather statistics on Indigenous youth who have been through the court.
She said Hervey Bay's Indigenous population was about 5000 and almost half had been through the justice system.
"Court is scary for Indigenous youth," Ms Clarke said.
"They're nervous, they're scared, and they don't understand the legal jargon.
"It's important for the Community Justice Group to be there to mediate and explain to them their charges, what can we do about it and how can we prevent them from offending again."
Winning a self-represented court case in 2004 was the motivation Ms Clarke needed to pursue her long-term dream of becoming a qualified barrister.
After winning the three-day trial, she wanted to help other Indigenous people in similar situations.
"I was unfairly accused many years ago and because I was Aboriginal, they thought I was a nobody.
"They thought I was mentally unstable.
"I won the case. I smashed them all the way through.
"I turned my lounge room into a trial courtroom and I practised with my stuffed toys.
"I did the three-day trial and the pre-trial hearing, I did the cross-examination and how many minutes I would cross-examine each person.
"I did it all by myself. That's what started my passion in life, that I want to help my own people."
Getting the Community Justice Group off the ground is just one of many achievements for Ms Clarke.
She also interns at Dentons law firm in Brisbane, studies full-time at Deakin University in Melbourne and is planning to apply for a scholarship to University of Cambridge in 2020.