A Koori Court will not be based in Ballarat anytime soon with the number of Indigenous offenders going through the local court system fewer than other regions.
Legal professionals have agreed while the benefits of Koori Courts are valuable in reducing re-offending, there are not enough offenders in Ballarat to warrant the specialised court at this stage.
Grampians Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee chairman Tony Lovett said extensive discussions with all stakeholders about whether or not a Koori Court will benefit the Ballarat region have been had.
“The short answer is no, based purely on the numbers. But with the benefits the Koori court has on community setting, yes we would like to see it here,” he said.
“The overall aim is to change the pattern of offending, to reduce the offending and to take offending behaviour out of someone’s life.
“It has worked in other local communities where they have reduced the number of people going before (a court).”
Koori Courts aim to help ensure offenders are sentenced in a more culturally appropriate way, as well as giving the offenders and victims a voice.
The Courier understands currently local Koori offenders wanting to have their case heard in the Koori Court have their matters moved to Melbourne, sometimes facing lengthy delays.
While others instead opt to be heard in the Magistrates Court.
“(Offenders face) disadvantage in that the cultural knowledge isn’t taken into account (when sentenced in the Magistrates Court),” Mr Lovett said.
He added young offenders having to front up to elders often acts as a deterrent.
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Services CEO Wayne Muir agreed, saying the benefits of the particular type of approach helped reduce recidivist offending.
But he also said restraints on legal service agencies needed to be taken into account when expanding Koori Courts.
“Whilst we support the concept of Koori courts and their expansion, you can only expand where the numbers are,” he said.
“If the Koori courts expand there are implications for support agencies.
“If not a Koori Court in Ballarat, why not some other restorative justice model system for the court?”
Victoria Legal Aid services and innovation executive director Peter Noble supported the notion of expanding therapeutic and problem solving courts such as the Koori Court, saying expansion would help eradicate postcode injustice.
“Without addressing the issues underlying a person’s offending, court models will continue to act as a revolving door,” he said.
“Specialist and problem solving courts such as the Koori Court shift the focus of the court from determining a legal contest between opposing sides to being actively engaged in addressing the underlying causes of the offending.”
In a statement from Victoria’s attorney general Martin Pakula, he did not address whether a Koori Court would be implemented in Ballarat in the near future.
“Decisions about the location of Koori Courts are determined by the individual courts, based on a range of factors including the availability of funding and other resources,” he said.
Koori Courts currently sit at 11 Magistrates’ Courts in Victoria, including Warnambool and Geelong.
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