Thu. Aug 18th, 2022

The man set to become the Northern Territory’s first Aboriginal judge will be the role model many young people need in the court system, according to his former employer.

David Woodroffe has worked with the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency for more than a decade, most recently as its principal legal officer.

He will be sworn in as an acting judge at the Local Court in Darwin on July 25.

“Aboriginal people are so proud of him at the moment,” the agency’s chairperson, Colleen Rosas, told the ABC.

“I know I had tears in my eyes because we’ve said this for so long – we’ve said we should have our own people judging us, people who know where we’re coming from.

The exterior of the local court in Darwin
David Woodroffe will be appointed to the Local Court bench as an acting judge.(ABC News: Hamish Harty)

Mr Woodroffe is a descendant of the Jingili Modburra clan group and his grandmother Elsie and father Ronald were Stolen Generations members.

“He’s been impacted by a lot of those policies, a lot of us have been,” Ms Rosas said.

“That’s what gives you the fire in the belly.

“David’s got it, he’s got it in the heart, he’s been there and done all this hard work.”

A portrait of a woman in her garden wearing a NAIDOC week shirt.
Colleen Rosas shed a few tears at the announcement of Mr Woodroffe’s appointment.(ABC News: Felicity James)

Mr Woodroffe studied law in Darwin and has previously described what motivated him to pursue it as a career.

“I wanted to study law for family, so that in some way I could ensure that injustices such as the Stolen Generations would never happen to Aboriginal people and my family again,” he said.

During the Northern Territory youth detention royal commission in 2016, Mr Woodroffe led NAAJA’s response.

Ms Rosas said she was not the only person to shed tears at a NAIDOC event in Darwin this week, where the announcement was made.

“We’ve got it, we’ve got this black judge up there – it’s just a wonderful thing to be happening,” Ms Rosas said.

A portrait of a man at the beach.
David Woodroffe celebrated his appointment during NAIDOC week in Darwin.(Supplied: NAAJA)

Aboriginal people make up about 30 per cent of the territory’s population and many residents do not speak English as a first language.

Ms Rosas, who worked to set up the NT’s Aboriginal Interpreter Service, said Mr Woodroffe has provided legal training to local interpreters and has a deep understanding of their importance.

“He is going to be such a valuable asset to our court services,” she said.

“He’s just so calm, you can sit down and talk to him, he has not got a nasty bone in his body.”

She said Mr Woodroffe’s appointment would hopefully open the gate for others.

He has already inspired many young Aboriginal people to pursue legal careers during his time at NAAJA, according to Ms Rosas.

“That respect is such a big thing, and that’s what I think is missing at the moment.”

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