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A Koori Court is a division of the Magistrate's court in Victoria, Australia, that sentences Indigenous Australians who pleaded guilty. The word Koori means, generally, aboriginal Australians. Koori Courts were created in order to allow participation of the Aboriginal community and culture in the legal system, in an attempt to bridge the cultural differences between Indigenous Australians and the imposed colonial law. They began operation in 2002, and are held on a designated day in an ordinary courthouse. The laws administered are exactly the same as in any Australian courthouse, but the format of the hearing is different.
In Koori Court, the Magistrate or Judge sits at a table with the offender, solicitors and community elders, and legalese is not allowed. The defendant may have members of their family sit with them and participate in the proceedings. Prosecutors have personal conversations with the defendant about their circumstances, in order to arrive at the most suitable and culturally appropriate sentence. An elder from the community is present to advise the Magistrate on the sentence.
The Koori Courts have been successful in not only reducing recidivism but also in strengthening the role of community elders and family structures.
Koori Courts in Victoria are located in Bairnsdale, Broadmeadows, Latrobe Valley (Morwell), Mildura, Shepparton and Warrnambool. There are also two Koori Children's Courts, one in Melbourne and one in Mildura. A Koori County Court operates at Melbourne and La Trobe valley.
The Koori Courts are an initiative of the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement, a joint partnership strategy between the Victorian Government and the Victorian Koori Community developed to reduce Indigenous over-representation in the criminal justice system and to improve justice outcomes for the Koori Community.
In November 2014, a year-long trial of the Koori Court model was announced for launch in Parramatta, New South Wales. The NSW Koori Court will begin hearing cases in January 2015.
- Taha, Mohamed; Clarke, Allan (13 November 2014). "NSW's first Koori Youth Court to target Indigenous imprisonment rates in western Sydney trial". ABC News Online. Retrieved 14 November 2014.