‘Good kid, mad system’: exploring local solutions to Indigenous young peoples’ involvement with the justice system in Ceduna, South Australia

Dr Anthea S Krieg1,

1 Department for Communities & Social Inclusion, Community Services, L8 Riverside Building, North Tce, Adelaide, SA 5000


What would an integrated response to keep Indigenous young people out of the justice system look like?

And what would it take to effectively coordinate community service responses in a way that supports the work of a non-adversarial court?

In this presentation we describe a three-year project that explores these questions within the communities of Ceduna and the Far West in South Australia. This region has amongst the highest Indigenous detention and incarceration rates in the state.

Early in the project it became evident that young people most at risk of justice involvement were coping with multiple high-level complexities in their lives, including cognitive impairment, mental illness, family conflict and violence, substance misuse, child protection issues and housing insecurity, often simultaneously. For many, information across community-based services was rarely coordinated or made available to the court.

It also became clear that frequently, no-one involved in the circuit court process-police prosecutor, defence lawyer or magistrate-knew the client. Visiting magistrates were required to make potentially life-changing decisions for young people based on very limited information.

A range of systemic issues were identified that had the effect of channelling young people into the courts and into detention or prison.

In response, the inSYNC program was developed to recruit health, education, social and legal services to work closely together to better support some of the most vulnerable young people and their families.

Strengths and limitations of the project will be discussed with a view to progress models of community-based care that assist non-adversarial approaches to justice.

BIOGRAPHY- Dr Anthea Krieg

Anthea Krieg is a medical practitioner with over 25 years experience working with Aboriginal communities  in both urban and remote locations around Australia. She has extensive experience in mental health services, including acute psychiatry and community clinical services, drug & alcohol work, prisoner health and public health, with a strong interest in developing appropriate responses to trauma/abuse issues.

She has worked extensively within the prisons in South Australia, as a clinician and past Clinical Director of the SA Prison Health Service. She has advocated strongly for, and piloted, community-based programs for Aboriginal people and families at risk of engagement with the Justice system in SA.

She has an active research interest in understanding the role of improved health and social sector responses in reducing justice system involvement for Aboriginal peoples.

Marram-Ngala Ganbu: We are one

Mr  Ashley Morris1, Maistrate Kay Macpherson1

1Children’s Court of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

The establishment of a Koori Hearing day list in the Family Division of the Children’s Court of Victoria was a recommendation made by the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry in 2012. This recommendation followed the identification of the need for such an initiative by the Aboriginal Justice Forum (AJF23) in March 2009 given the high rates of removal of Aboriginal children from their families

Data indicates that there has been a 59 per cent increase in the number of Victorian Aboriginal children in out-of-home care from 2013 – 2015. A review also found that over 60% of children in out of home care were placed with a non-Aboriginal carer and over 40% of children with siblings were separated from their brothers and sisters.

The Marram-Ngala Ganbu Koori Hearing day aims to improve outcomes for Koori children involved in child protection proceedings by providing a culturally appropriate process to assist in decision making. Marram-Ngala Ganbu also sets out to improve adherence to the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle set out in the Children’s Youth and Families Act 2005

This session will describe the development of the Koori Hearing day pilot, challenges faced in setting up such a court and discuss the future of Koori Hearing day’s in the Family Division of the Children’s Court of Victoria


Ashley Morris is a Gunditjmara man from Victoria with ties to Dublin Ireland. Born in Traralgon Victoria and then moving to Brisbane, Perth, and Wodonga before relocating to Melbourne in 2011, Ash is currently the Koori Services Coordinator at the Broadmeadows Children’s Court. In this role he is responsible for the development and implementation of the Marram-Ngala Ganbu Koori Hearing day pilot.

Ashley started his working life at the Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation in Wodonga where he started as a Trainee Administration officer before moving into the Position of Koori Youth Justice Worker where he run a number of diversionary programs and assisted Young Aboriginal people on youth justice orders.

While in Melbourne Ash held a number of positions including the Broadmeadows Koori Court Officer, Community Corrections Officer, Koori Men’s Family Violence Court support and Coordinator of Koori Programs in the Koori Court Unit.

Kay MacPherson – 

1974 – 1978 Melbourne University ( Bachelor of Law )
1979   – Articles with Brian Ward and Co, Solicitors
1980  – Commenced at the Public Solicitor’s Office which then became Legal Aid Commission and then Victoria Legal Aid
1990 – Appointed head of the Criminal Law Division at Victoria Legal Aid
1991 – Appointed a Magistrate|
1994 – 2008  –  Sat at the Dandenong Magistrates Court in the criminal jurisdiction including the Dandenong Drug Court.
2008  –  Commenced sitting in the Children’s Court
Currently – Regional Co-ordinating Magistrate at the Broadmeadows Children’s Court and head of the Family Drug Treatment Court and the Koori Hearing Family Day Court ( Marram – Ngala Ganbu)
2012 – Appointed as member of the Adult Parole Board of Victoria
2014 – Appointed as Patron of Youth Education Support Inc.

Koori Court: 15 years young: A review of intended and unintended consequences

Ms Jelena Popovic1

1Magistrates Court Of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia


Koori Court didn’t focus on the problem, it focussed on the way forward. And it showed me the importance of connection and getting connected. AR, October 2016.

Since its commencement in Shepparton in 2002, Koori Court now sits in three County Courts, 10 Magistrates’ Courts and 13 Children’s Court locations. It is no longer a boutique pilot, but part of the very fabric of the Victoria court system. Koori Court is the embodiment of cultural safety in the alienating world of the justice system, and strives to address the over-representation of Aboriginal persons in prisons and courts.

The cornerstone of the Koori Court is its Elders and Respected Persons (ERP). The paper will examine the renewed respect toward Elders, and the evolution of the role of Elders and Respected Persons, with reference to the professionalisation of the ERPs through remuneration and continuing professional education.

This paper will review the Koori Court model in comparison with other Indigenous courts and comment on whether it has met its intended aims.   It will look at the continuing evolution of the court and the changes to the model, such as increasing efforts to promote culture, closer affiliation with the Sheriff’s Office to address outstanding fines, the addition of criminal justice diversion and the inclusion of family violence breaches. It will discuss what its presence has meant to the Koori community, the Victorian community, the workforce of the courts, the justice system, the police and the judicial officers who preside over it.

The paper will also look at the challenges, and the strategies to address them, and will conclude with some thoughts about how the Koori Court could continue to evolve over the next 15 years.


Jelena is a Victorian Deputy Chief Magistrate of 27 years standing who has a keen interest in solution focussed judging and is the Supervising Magistrate of the Koori Courts.

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