Lawyers hail wisdom of second Koori Court

The New South Wales Government’s decision to extend the Youth Koori Court to another Sydney children’s court — at a cost of $2.7 million over three years — has been welcomed by the Aboriginal Legal Service in New South Wales and the ACT.

The second Youth Koori Court will run at Surry Hills, supplementing the one at Parramatta Children’s Court.

ALS chief executive officer Lesley Turner thanked the government for extending the pilot program, which is aimed at reducing the rates of re-offending among young Aboriginal people.

“The trial at the Parramatta Children’s Court has shown that recidivism can be reduced, but only if the many underlying social factors contributing to re-offending are addressed,” Mr Turner said.

The Youth Koori Court has been operating in Parramatta since 2015 and sits once a week. The expansion to Surry Hills will double its capacity.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said in a joint statement the state’s 2018-19 budget, to be handed down on June 19, will include the funding for the expansion.

“The over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody is a major problem that needs to be addressed,” Mr Speakman said.

“This is why the government is investing in a program that targets the issues contributing to offending before the behaviour becomes entrenched.”

Magistrate Sue Duncombe said the court has the same powers as a children’s court, but is more informal and involves community elders in its processes.

“We sit down with the young person and discuss the offence and develop a plan to keep them out of trouble, which might include finding stable accommodation, getting back into school or a job and addressing health, drug and alcohol issues,” Magistrate Duncombe said.

To participate in the Youth Koori Court, offenders must be aged 10-17, be of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background and have pleaded guilty or been found guilty of a criminal offence.

Participants have up to 12 months to complete the program and their performance is taken into account during the sentencing process.

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