Innovation in Papua New Guinea's Village Courts: Exceeding Jurisdiction or Meeting Local Needs? Legal Innovation: Part 1
In 2013, I witnessed a sitting of Hanuabada Village Court in Port Moresby as a guest of the Village Courts Secretariat of Papua New Guinea. Hanuabada was a showcase for an initiative of the secretariat in collaboration with the Australiafunded Law and Justice Partnership to train and appoint more women as Village Court magistrates. This particular court sitting also afforded an opportunity to observe a large urban Village Court in operation, as its style of conducting proceedings stood in stark distinction to the rural Village Courts in which I have previously conducted research (Demian 2003). Hanuabada Village Court hewed closely to the formalities of the District and National Courts, the magistrates' handbook was consulted frequently, and the court appeared in every way to operate as the state apparatus it is meant to be. In contrast, I once recorded a rural Village Court magistrate from Milne Bay Province telling his court in 1999, 'There is no government here: we are the government'.