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Koori Court

A court for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have taken responsibility and pleaded guilty to a criminal offence. 

The Koori Court has been developed to reflect cultural issues and operate in a more informal way. 

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders who needs support, see the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support page.

In Koori Court, you will sit around a table – called the bar table – with the magistrate, Elders and Respected Persons, a Koori court officer, the , community correction officer, your lawyer and family. Koori owned and controlled agencies may also be in attendance in the courtroom to contribute to the conversation and offer support.

Everyone is encouraged to take part in a sentencing conversation by having a yarn and avoid using legal language. Aboriginal Elders or respected persons may give cultural advice to help the magistrate make a judgment that:

  • is culturally appropriate
  • helps reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

Information about the Children’s Koori Court can be found on the Children’s Court of Victoria website.

The steps below outline how a referral into Koori Court can be made. It does not cover all scenarios.  

STEP 1: Confirm availability eligibility

You must be of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent and be charged with a criminal offence. 

Koori Courts are located at the:

STEP 2: Enter a

Taking responsibility for your offence is required before a matter can be heard in the Koori Court. If you don’t have a lawyer, you should seek legal advice. You may also need to have a with the prosecutor. 

You should understand what criminal offence you have been charged with before saying you are guilty. See the pleading guilty or not guilty page for more information.   

STEP 3: Seek a referral

You or your lawyer can ask for a matter to be adjourned and referred to Koori Court after you have decided to plead guilty. 

Practice Direction No. 11 of 2022 sets out the process for referring matters into Koori Court. For a matter to be adjourned to the Koori Court, a Koori Court referral form must be completed and include:

  • briefs of evidence, summaries and/or charge sheets,
  • supporting documents relevant to the Koori Court proceedings, and
  • confirmation of Aboriginality*.

*If there is no confirmation of Aboriginality available the accused or their legal practitioner should contact the relevant Koori Court officer. The unavailability of a confirmation of Aboriginality is not a barrier and does not prevent an accused from being referred into Koori Court under the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989.

It is the responsibility of the accused and their legal practitioner to provide all information required to refer matter(s) into Koori Court.

What happens next?

If the Koori Court officer identifies that there may be eligibility issues, they will alert the accused or their legal practitioner, arrange for the matter be listed at the next available Koori Court hearing date for mention. 

Whether or not an accused is eligible to have their matter heard in Koori Court will be determined by a magistrate based on the advice of the Koori Court officers and Aboriginal Elders and Respected People. A magistrate may decide to a matter to enable a party to gather additional information or consider their referral. 

If a magistrate determines that an does not meet the eligibility requirements for Koori Court, the matter will be listed in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria criminal division for a plea of guilty on the day, if time permits, or adjourned to a future date.

It is important to go to Koori Court on the date of your hearing as a show of respect to the Elders. If you don’t go, a magistrate may issue a for your arrest.

Every Koori Court has been smoked. Before the hearing starts, an Acknowledgment of Country and welcome will occur to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land.  

The magistrate will welcome everyone sitting at the table and begin the conversation about the criminal offence. After all participants have had their say, the magistrate may decide if the case is finished and outline any penalties. 

Another approach could be to ask you to promise to attend programs or seek treatment to deal with factors contributing to the offending behaviour. 

You may need to come to court at a later date to show the magistrate and Elders what you have achieved.

Last updated on 11 Apr 2024
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