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Koori Court opens in Wodonga

The Wodonga Koori Court is the 14th of its kind to be opened in Victoria, giving Indigenous Australians living in the north-east of the state better access to culturally appropriate justice.

user iconJess Feyder 02 August 2022 The Bar
Koori Court opens in Wodonga
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This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Victorian Koori courts. Koori courts began as an initiative of the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement; they contribute to efforts to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system.

“In the 20 years they have been around, Koori courts have played a major role in delivering better outcomes for Aboriginal people and have improved engagement with local Aboriginal communities,” said Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes.

A-G Symes opened the court on 29 July, saying: “It’s fantastic to see the Koori Court model being rolled out in Wodonga — it will be a huge benefit to Aboriginal Victorians in the north east.”

 
 

Locals from Wodonga and surrounding area previously had to travel to Shepparton, Melbourne, or other locations to access Koori courts.

Koori courts involve Aboriginal elders and respected persons in the court process, where they provide cultural advice to the magistrate and encourage the accused to reflect on experiences that led to their court appearance. 

The environment within a Koori Court is less formal than in other courts, with the accused, their families, Aboriginal elders or respected persons, and Koori Court officers able to contribute directly to the discussion.

This means people appearing before the court can discuss underlying issues contributing to their offending behaviour in a culturally sensitive forum.

Koori Court magistrates sentence offenders in accordance with the same requirements that apply in other Victorian courts.

To appear before the Koori Court, a person must be of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, plead guilty, and consent to having their case heard in the Koori Court.

More than 70 Aboriginal elders and respected persons are involved with Koori courts. The courts also employ around 15 Koori Court officers, making a substantial contribution to the employment of Aboriginal staff across Court Services Victoria.