County Koori Court

This court is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders who plead guilty.

Changes to operations

Following advice from the federal and state governments regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19), the County Court has suspended all County Koori Court hearings until further notice.

About the County Koori Court

Established in 2008 as part of the County Court Victoria jurisdiction, the County Koori Court is the first sentencing court for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders in the higher jurisdiction in Australia. It follows the successful Koori Court model introduced at the Magistrates’ and Children’s Courts and sits at Latrobe Valley, Melbourne, Mildura, Shepparton and Warrnambool.

Aboriginal elders or respected persons advise the Judge on cultural issues relating to the accused and his or her offending behaviour. Their voices are a powerful cultural feature and send a clear message to the accused the offences are not condoned by Koori or non-Koori communities.

Elders and respected persons provide information on the background of the accused and possible reasons for offending behaviour. They may also explain relevant kinship connections, how particular crimes have affected the Indigenous community and provide advice on cultural practices, protocols and perspectives relevant to sentencing.

The process

Indigenous accused must elect to go to Koori Court, consent to the jurisdiction and plead guilty. The plea hearing is conducted in three stages:

  1. Formal arraignment: guilty pleas may be entered at the initial Directions Hearing or on the plea date in the County Koori Court. Arraignment proceeds before the judge alone.

  2. Sentencing conversation: this procedure is different from the usual plea hearing. It is conducted in a specially designated courtroom with as little formality as possible. Participants talk in plain English, rather than using technical legal language.

    The conversation begins with an acknowledgement of country and the judge explains to the accused that the court respects Aboriginal people and culture and that the room has been smoked.

    The judge, elders and respected persons, the accused, the legal practitioner for the accused, prosecutor, Koori Court officer, corrections officer and the family/support of the accused sit around a table. All participants are introduced and explain their role. The participants discuss the offending behaviour.

  3. Formal sentence: the usual sentencing procedures are followed. The procedure is formal with the Judge sitting alone at the bench to deliver the sentence. This process reinforces to the accused and other participants that the judge is the ultimate decision-maker. Sentencing can often occur on another day, depending on the complexities of the case.

The County Koori Court cannot hear sexual offences. Offences that involve family violence or a breach of an intervention order or interim intervention order can only be heard at the County Koori Court sitting at Mildura.


The accused must be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person to come before the County Koori Court.

An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person is someone who:

  • descended from Aboriginal peoples or Torres Strait Islander people
  • identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person
  • is accepted as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community.


Judge Lawson – Judge in Charge of the County Koori Court
Phone: 03 8636 6604

Terrie Stewart – County Koori Court Coordinator
Phone: 03 8636 6083

Shirley Annesley – Senior Koori Support Officer
Phone: 03 8636 6584

Kylie Spencer – County Koori Court Officer
Phone: 03 8636 6600

Sitting County Koori Court Judges

  • Chief Judge Kidd
  • Judge Brimer
  • Judge M Bourke
  • Judge Cahill
  • Judge Carlin
  • Judge Carmody
  • Judge Chambers
  • Judge Cohen
  • Judge Dalziel
  • Judge Davis
  • Judge Dean
  • Judge Dawes
  • Judge Doyle
  • Judge Fox
  • Judge Gamble
  • Judge Gaynor
  • Judge Georgiou
  • Judge Gwynn
  • Judge Hampel
  • Judge Lawson
  • Judge Johns
  • Judge Marich
  • Judge Meredith
  • Judge Mullaly
  • Judge Smallwood
  • Judge D Sexton
  • Judge M Sexton
  • Judge Stuart
  • Judge Todd
  • Judge Wilmoth
  • Judge Wraight

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Page last updated: 9 March 2021