Youth Koori Court

[11-0000] Background material

[11-0005] The Youth Koori Court[1]

The Children’s Court began trialling the Youth Koori Court (YKC) in February 2015 at Parramatta Children’s Court.

We created this pilot in response to the devastating over-representation of Aboriginal young people in the justice system.

The YKC was established within existing resources and without the need for legislative change.

The YKC uses a deferred sentencing model: s 33(1)(c2) of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 (CCPA). The process that has been developed for the YKC involves an application of the deferred sentencing model as well as an understanding of and respect for Aboriginal culture.

Mediation principles and practices are employed in a conference process to identify issues of concern for the young person, identify ways in which those concerns can be addressed, and develop an Action and Support Plan for the young person to focus on for six to twelve months prior to sentence.

The legislative scheme applicable to the YKC is consistent with the general principles informing the work of the Children’s Court.

Specifically, the provisions in s 6 of the CCPA state:


That children have rights and freedoms before the law equal to those enjoyed by adults and, in particular, a right to be heard, and a right to participate, in the processes that lead to decisions that affect them,


That children who commit offences bear responsibility for their actions but, because of their state of dependency and immaturity, require guidance and assistance,



That it is desirable that children who commit offences be assisted with their reintegration into the community so as to sustain family and community ties,


[Emphasis added.]

The direct participation of the young person is required as referrals to the YKC can only be made on the application of the young person. It is a voluntary process and relies upon genuine commitment and ownership by the young person.

The culturally competent component of the YKC is demonstrated in many ways, including through the set-up of the court room itself. The YKC sits in a court room with artworks prepared by young people in custody at each of the juvenile justice centres in NSW.

Notably, the full suite of sentencing options is available to the judicial officer.

The YKC has been sitting since 6 February 2015 and we celebrated the two-year milestone in February [2017], with all of the stakeholders involved, including some young people who had successfully completed the YKC process. We were delighted to receive a visit from Senator Pat Dodson on the day, who sat as a respected person in the YKC, and shared some words of encouragement and wisdom with one of our young participants.

From February 2015 to December 2016, the YKC had 52 referrals and 48 of those young people were sentenced. In [May] 2017, we have 11 young people continuing or referred, and two have been sentenced so far this year. [As at June 2018, 92 young people have been referred to the YKC program.]

A formal process evaluation has been conducted by Western Sydney University with positive results, see [11-0020].

Anecdotally, many young people have become genuinely engaged in the process, and, given the participatory nature of the process, many young people have developed a strong sense of accountability for their actions.

With the assistance of the Children’s Court Assistance Scheme, five of the YKC participants have been able to obtain permanent housing, which is a significant achievement.

Although the YKC was successfully established within existing resources, funding is needed in order to achieve excellence in the program, and also to expand the program. Funding was recently announced by the Attorney General, Mark Speakman SC, and the Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, to enable the expansion of the YKC to Surry Hills. The funding will commence on 1 July 2018 and will allow the courts to operate for a further three years.

Communities such as those in Redfern, Glebe, La Perouse and Dubbo have been consulted on the possibility of expanding the YKC and are eager to see the expansion of the YKC to their communities.

[11-0010] NSW Youth Koori Court pilot program commences

The practise, procedures, aims and objectives of the Youth Koori Court are summarised in this article at S Duncombe, “NSW Youth Koori Court Pilot Program commences” (2015) 27 JOB 11.

See also a Fact Sheet by the Department of Justice at, accessed 22 June 2018.

[11-0015] Expansion of the NSW Youth Koori Court program

In May 2018, the NSW Government funded the expansion of the Youth Koori Court to Surry Hills. The sittings of the Youth Koori Court at Surry Hills commenced on 6 February 2019. This article, at S Duncombe, “Expansion of the NSW Youth Koori Court program” (2018) 30 JOB 48, gives a brief summary.


see, accessed 8 February 2018.

[11-0020] Youth Koori Court review of Parramatta Pilot Project

A report prepared by M Williams, D Tait, L Crabtree and M Meher, of Western Sydney University can be found at, accessed 12 June 2018.

Practice Note 11: Youth Koori Court issued 16 January 2015, amended 5 March 2015 and further amended 1 February 2019.

[1]  This extract is from “Early intervention, diversion and rehabilitation from the perspective of the Children’s Court of NSW” by Judge Peter Johnstone, President of the Children’s Court of NSW, at [110]–[126]. The paper, which was originally presented for the 6th Annual Juvenile Justice Summit, Friday, 5 May 2017, Sydney, is reproduced in full at [5-0150]. This extract has been updated to include recent changes. The pilot program is also discussed in an article by S Duncombe, “NSW Youth Koori Court Pilot Program commences” (2015) 27 JOB 11.