A chance to reflect on our Koori services
The Children’s Court of Victoria is proud of its work with the Koori community to provide culturally respectful, inclusive and constructive ways to manage cases involving Koori young people. We support National Reconciliation Week, which celebrates and builds on the respectful relationships that exist between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians.
This year, National Reconciliation Week is held between May 27 and June 3. These two dates mark historic milestones – May 27 is the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum that empowered the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and include them in the national census. June 3 is the 25th anniversary of the landmark Mabo decision, which paved the way for land rights or Native Title.
As part of this annual event, we reflect on the services we provide for cases that involve Koori children and young people, including the Children’s Koori Court, Koori Conciliation Conference program and Koori Family Hearing Day.
Children’s Koori Court
We established the Children’s Koori Court in 2005 to address the over-representation of young Koori people in the criminal justice system. The Children's Koori Court is for young Koori people found guilty of committing a criminal offence. The sentencing outcomes in Koori Court are the same as in mainstream criminal cases but the court process is different. An Elder or Respected Person sits on either side of the Judge or Magistrate to give cultural advice about the young person's situation. They also speak to the young person. The Judge or Magistrate makes the sentencing decision, but involving the Koori community in this way aims to reduce offending behaviour and the number of young Koori people sentenced to detention.
Koori Conciliation Conference program
Introduced in 2012, the Koori Conciliation Conference program in the family division has given families of Koori heritage the opportunity to meaningfully participate in discussions about the care and welfare of their children. Beginning with an acknowledgement of Country, the conferences are conducted in a manner respectful to all family members. A vivid display of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags and map, and an artwork commissioned by a local artist, provide a culturally safe and appropriate environment for Koori families.
In 2017, the program was expanded and Koori Conference Registrars now travel to regional areas to convene conciliation conferences between families, children and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Koori Family Hearing Day
Last year, the Children’s Court in Broadmeadows became the first Australian court to establish a Koori Family Hearing Day, to be known as Marram-Ngala Ganbu (MNG) meaning ‘We are One’ in Woiwurrung language. It aims to improve outcomes for Koori children in child protection proceedings, providing a culturally-appropriate process to assist in decision making. It also aims to improve adherence to the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle in the Children’s Youth and Families Act 2005. A Koori Services Coordinator coordinates MNG and provides information and referrals to relevant services for Koori children and their families.
This ground-breaking initiative, still in pilot phase, was recently showcased at the Non-Adversarial Justice 2017 Conference in Sydney.
Koori support services
We also employ a Koori Conference Registrar, Koori Court Officer and Koori Services Coordinator to coordinate and support the Koori community and their families with a case before the Court.