Yesterday a small group of BSSC students visited the Bendigo Courts specifically to learn about the Koorie Court model.

While the architecture of the building has been designed to lessen the intimidation of the justice system for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the courts also incorporate ERPs (Elders and Respected Persons).

ERPs offer advice to the magistrate, in much the same way as the Voice to Parliament would offer advice to government.

While First Nations people make up around 3% of the population, they have been incarcerated in the past at rates of around 30%. Koorie Courts minimise the intimidating nature of the court buildings and processes commonly used in our legal system.

BSSC students acted out various court roles—from magistrate to the accused—and then re-enacted how the roles operate in the Koorie Court.

Koorie Court Officer, Geoff, spoke about the huge difference in atmosphere between the two courtrooms.

Koorie courts have been around for about 22 years—the first one was in Shepparton—and the model will be expanded to a Children’s Koorie Court and the County Court.

Walking back to BSSC, students reflected on how intimidating some of the court processes are and how valuable it was to have been shown an alternative model—which seems to be working well (none of the 31 cases heard since April have re-offended).

BSSC is very grateful to the staff from the Bendigo Courts—especially Geoff, Gerry and Lucy—who have hosted numerous groups of Year 11 and 12 students over the last months, providing a truly valuable educational and life experience.