Aboriginal Elders will play a major role in Shepparton’s justice system, when Victoria’s newest Koori Court opens in the regional centre today.
Chief Judge Peter Kidd said it was great honour to launch the opening of the new Court in partnership with the Shepparton Koori community.
“The Shepparton County Koori Court represents a significant step towards improving the justice outcomes for the Koori community in our State.”
“A justice system which supports the participation of Elders and Respected Persons from local Aboriginal communities, results in better engagement with the system by Aboriginal Victorians and better helps offenders address the causes of their offending and helps prevent re-offending,” Chief Judge said.
Judge-In-Charge Paul Grant said the County Koori Court used the same sentencing law as the criminal division of the County Court.
“What’s different about the Koori Court is that it provides an opportunity during the plea hearing for Elders to speak directly with offenders about their offending and the importance of offenders changing their behaviour,” Judge Grant said.
“Offenders can only come into the Court if they plead guilty and consent to participate in a process that involves engaging with Elders and Respected Persons from the Aboriginal community.”
There are three stages to a County Koori Court hearing – Arraignment, the Sentencing Conversation and the Sentence. In the Arraignment, the accused enters a formal guilty plea before the Judge alone.
The sentencing conversation follows and includes the Judge, the Elders and Respected Persons, the accused, the lawyer for the accused, the Prosecutor, the Koori Court Officer, the Corrections Officer and those people who may be present to support the offender. If a victim is present he or she will participate. Everybody has the opportunity to speak.
The Judge has the sole responsibility for imposing sentence.
The County Koori Court began sitting in the Latrobe Valley in 2008, in Melbourne in 2013 and in Mildura in 2016. The expansion to Shepparton is an important next step along the path to full state wide coverage.
Aboriginal Elders and Respected Persons are appointed from each region where a County Koori Court is located and have strong cultural ties and knowledge of the local area and their community.
Visit the Koori Court page on the County Court website at: countycourt.vic.gov.au/learn-about-court/court-divisions/county-koori-court