Friday, 30 November 2018
COUNTY KOORI COURT REFLECTS 10 YEARS ON
Morwell, Victoria: The County Koori Court celebrates a decade of work towards improving justice outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today.
Established in 2008 the Koori Court remains the only sentencing court for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders in a higher jurisdiction of Australia.
Speaking at Latrobe Valley Law Courts, Judge-In-Charge Paul Grant said that “the expansion of the Koori Court throughout the state and across jurisdictions is testament to its support within Koori communities. Indeed, it is those communities that have driven the expansion.”
The County Koori Court began sitting in the Latrobe Valley in 2008, in Melbourne in 2013 and in Mildura in 2016. The expansion to Shepparton in 2018 represented an important next step along the path to full state wide coverage.
In discussing the impact of the Koori Court over the past 10 years, Judge Grant explained that a common theme from the evaluations of each Court is how successful the Court has been in meeting the objective of increasing Aboriginal community participation in the justice system.
“In 2002 there were very few – if any – Aboriginal people working in Victorian courts and now more than 100 Elders and Respected Persons are participating in Koori Courts throughout Victoria,” Judge Grant said.
County Court of Victoria Chief Judge Peter Kidd said it was great honour to reflect upon the impact of the County Koori Court in improving justice engagement over the past decade.
“The County Koori Court represents a significant step towards improving the justice outcomes for the Koori community in our State.”
“A justice system which supports the participation of Elders and Respected Persons from local Aboriginal communities, results in better engagement with the system by Aboriginal Victorians and better helps offenders address the causes of their offending and helps prevent re-offending,” Chief Judge said.
There are three stages to a County Koori Court hearing – Arraignment, the Sentencing Conversation and the Sentence. In the Arraignment, the accused enters a formal guilty plea before the Judge alone.
The sentencing conversation follows and includes the Judge, the Elders and Respected Persons, the accused, the lawyer for the accused, the Prosecutor, the Koori Court Officer, the Corrections Officer and those people who may be present to support the offender. If a victim is present he or she will participate. Everybody has the opportunity to speak. The Judge has the sole responsibility for imposing sentence.
The County Koori Court began sitting in the Latrobe Valley in 2008, in Melbourne in 2013, in Mildura in 2016 and in Shepparton in 2018. Aboriginal Elders and Respected Persons are appointed from each region where a County Koori Court is located and have strong cultural ties and knowledge of the local area and their community.
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