Village court decisions in Morobe Province are expected to be more equitable and consistent following the completion of a training course last month, funded by the Australian Government.
Village court officials from Bulolo District were trained in a new course launched in November 2014, which aims to ensure consistency in decisions by ensuring all officials uphold human rights and equality through receiving the same training package.
The training course also addressed issues affecting the most vulnerable community members, such as family and sexual violence, HIV/AIDS and considerations for those living with disabilities.
Additionally, officials were trained in recent amendments to the Village Courts Act which mean they can now hear cases against minors and handle disputes involving the operation of vehicles and small craft.
The amendments have also increased fines and amounts of compensation that can be imposed by these courts and clarified a number of administrative issues.
The law now stipulates that where practicable at least one Village Court magistrate in each court should be a woman, which provides greater representation for women in restorative justice at a local level.
Bulolo District Village Courts serve communities totalling over 100,000 people. Village Courts provide the first level of access to formal justice services for most Papua New Guineans – they are often the only justice service accessible at the village level.
The courts employ customary methods of mediation and conflict-resolution, and provide about 95 per cent of Papua New Guineans with a justice system that responds to many everyday needs.
These include marriage problems, claims for civil disputes, property damage, assaults, and theft. Since 2002, over 600 new village courts have been established, particularly in remote areas, where they are needed most.
The Australian Government provides technical and financial support as part of its commitment to strengthening law and justice service delivery through the PNG-Australia Law and Justice Partnership – Transition Program.
Source: Morobe Provincial Administration, Division of Law and Justice