CHANGE MAKERS: Cherbourg Elders Aunty Lillian Gray and Uncle Bevan Costello are both long-serving Justice of the Peace Magistrates for the Murri Court in Cherbourg.
CHANGE MAKERS: Cherbourg Elders Aunty Lillian Gray and Uncle Bevan Costello are both long-serving Justice of the Peace Magistrates for the Murri Court in Cherbourg. Claudia Williams

Meet Cherbourg elder who's championing community change

AS THE crowds gathered in Cherbourg last week for the official opening of the Muran Djan Centre and Yarning Circle, there was one person who couldn't have been prouder of the achievement.

Cherbourg Elder Uncle Bevan Costello was one of instigators who helped establish the centre, and fittingly, was the master of ceremonies for the momentous event.

As a long-serving Justice of the Peace Magistrate in Cherbourg, the opening of the men's centre cements Uncle Bevan's commitment to making a positive impact in his community.

The centre has been operating for nearly two years to support indigenous men, especially those who have committed a domestic violence offence and need help fitting back into society.

Uncle Bevan said he hoped the space would play a huge role in shaping the community for the better.

"Too many indigenous people are in jail," he said.

"In the Murri Court, the last option for us is to send someone to prison.

"However if a man does go to jail, when they are released they need to have that additional support from within the community.

"We found there was plenty of support for women and children, but nothing for the men.

"The centre is a space for them to go to after they have been released to gain support and have a yarn.

"The yarning circle, located just outside of the centre, is an important place for the men to be able to have somewhere to speak about themselves and their lives."

Uncle Bevan said the next stage for the centre was to be able to provide accommodation options for the men.

"Men aren't allowed to be let out of prison until they have somewhere to stay," he said.

"They can't go home to their families where they have committed the offence, so they need to have some sort of accommodation organised.

"We are hoping to get some options ready so the men can return home to their community and slowly build back the trust from their families."

Along with being a qualified teacher and the principal at Cherbourg State School, Uncle Bevan is also one of the 10 members on the Queensland Sentencing Council.

As the only indigenous representative on the council, he is responsible for providing independent research and advice to the State-Attorney-General about public views and promoting community understanding around sentencing.

The Wakka Wakka elder is also the chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel.

Aside from these commitments, the Cherbourg elder is quite the star on stage.

Uncle Bevan plays guitar and sings in his band the Muddy Flats, which was formed in the 1980s, and can still entertain a crowd with his musical performances, as he demonstrated at the opening.

When the official proceedings wrapped up and the food started being served, Uncle Bevan's face beamed with pride at how well the opening had been received by the guests who attended the event.

The Muran Djan Centre and Yarning Circle will continue to support indigenous men in Cherbourg and Uncle Bevan's efforts.

The Wakka Wakka man believes this step forward will help alleviate the constant pressure on the justice system as well as make his community a proud place to live in the future.