The Youth Koori Court

The Youth Koori Court was established in 2015  by the Children’s Court of NSW in Parramatta in response to the over representation in the juvenile justice system of Aboriginal children between the ages of 10 and 17. 

In 2015 “ Aboriginal children in detention was over 60% of the overall number of children in Juvenile Justice facilities across the State and the number of families from whom Aboriginal children were being removed was in excess of 40%.” Judge Johnstone – President of the Children’s Court 

Review of the Pilot Program

The Western Sydney University review of the 2015 Pilot Program describes the alternative sentencing model as follow:

1. The program is voluntary and is based on other successful specialist courts such as the NSW Drug Court

2. The Youth Koori Court delays sentence to allow the child’s identified risk factors to be dealt with. These may include insecure housing, substance addiction, trauma, educational disengagement.

2. The child’s sentence is deferred for between six months to a year

3. A team that includes indigenous elders and community members and a specialist Magistrate develop and monitor  ‘Action and Support plans’. 

4. The plan’s provide a “comprehensive list of the young person’s needs in the areas of accommodation, health (including mental health), drugs, education and employment, civil law issues (such as identity documents and unpaid fines) and cultural connection (creating opportunities for young people to be with their family clan and connect with country).”

5. The plans are reviewed regularly until participants graduate from the program at the end of the agreed period of the deferred sentence

The Future

In February 2019 the Youth Koori Court opened a second location in Surry Hills

At the opening ceremony for the new facility the NSW  Attorney General identified the purpose of the court as:

“The program gives these young offenders the chance to participate in the court process and be involved in developing a plan. That plan is designed to help them work out solutions for problems and see a way forward that does not involve reoffending or abusing their health, and most importantly takes their cultural needs into account. They are supported by a range of experienced people, many of whom are here among us today, who could help guide them back on the right track.” Attorney General the Honourable Mark Speakman SC 

Children’s Court Magistrate Duncombe had the following to say about the Youth Koori Court.

“This court began and expands today to allow us to respond in a way which replaces a punishment model, or supports a punishment model with a therapeutic approach. In so doing we are opening up the possibility of safe futures for these young people and safer futures as a result for all of our citizens. “- Children’s Court Magistrate Duncombe

Resources about the Youth Koori Court

Youth Koori Court Fact Sheet

Video of the Youth Koori Court

Western Sydney University Report on the Youth Koori Court