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. You must choose to have your case heard in the Koori Court.
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, Aboriginal Elders, a Koori court officer, the prosecutor, 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:
- Bairnsdale Magistrates’ Court
- Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court
- Geelong Magistrates’ Court
- Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court
- Melbourne Magistrates’ Court
- Mildura Magistrates’ Court
- Shepparton Magistrates’ Court
- Swan Hill Magistrates’ Court
- Warrnambool Magistrates’ Court
- Portland Magistrates’ Court
- Hamilton Magistrates’ Court
STEP 2: Enter a plea
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 summary case conference 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.
Your lawyer must file a certificate of readiness form with the relevant Magistrates’ Court before a Koori Court Officer can start work on the case.
If the Koori Court Officer believes you are eligible, your matter will be listed in the Koori Court and you will be notified of the Koori Court hearing date. If you are not eligible, your matter will be referred to the general mention list of the Magistrates’ Court.
What happens next?
If the referral is successful, 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 warrant 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.
- Seek legal advice from a lawyer
- Understand that you must take responsibility and plead guilty to the criminal offence
- Request your lawyer to seek an adjournment and referral into Koori Court
- Complete and lodge a certificate of readiness form with the relevant Magistrates’ Court
This is not a full list of legislation associated with this topic. See the Victorian Government's legislation website for more information.