Indigenous Sentencing Courts in Two Australian States

  • Elena MarchettiEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Race, Ethnicity, Indigeneity and Criminal Justice book series (PSREICJ)


It is impossible to analyse the impact of Indigenous sentencing courts on victims and offenders without an understanding of how the courts operate in different locations, and how the Indigenous population is positioned within the broader community (within which the Indigenous sentencing court is located) in terms of employment opportunities, police relations and general living conditions. This chapter situates victims’ and offenders’ experiences of the court in a broader community context, and it reveals the different ways in which court processes are modified to be more inclusive of Indigenous experiences of offending and victimisation. It also provides a detailed account of how the Australian Indigenous sentencing courts have evolved throughout Australia and what various evaluations and impact studies of the courts have found.


Alcohol and drug abuse Indigenous criminogenic risk factors Systemic and institutional discrimination Effects of colonization Evolution of indigenous sentencing courts Koori Court Nunga Court Community Court Murri Court Galambany Court Evaluations Impact studies Community-centred aims Recidivism Offending-centred aims 


  1. Anthony, T. (2015) ‘Two Laws: Indigenous Justice Mechanisms in Context’, Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, 18(1), pp. 99–115.Google Scholar
  2. Anthony, T. and Crawford, W. (2015) ‘Northern Territory Indigenous Community Sentencing Mechanisms: An Order for Substantive Equality’, Australian Indigenous Law Review, 17(2), pp. 79–99.Google Scholar
  3. Aquilina, H., Sweeting, J., Liedel, H., Hovane, V., Williams, V. and Somerville, C. (2009) Evaluation of the Aboriginal Sentencing Court of Kalgoorlie. Burswood: Shelby Consulting.Google Scholar
  4. Astbury, B. and Leeuw, F. L. (2010) ‘Unpacking Black Boxes: Mechanisms and Theory Building in Evaluation’, American Journal of Evaluation, 31(3), pp. 363–381.Google Scholar
  5. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2004) 6261.0.55.001—Characteristics of Wage and Salary Earners in Regions of Australia, 2000–01. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics. Available at: (Accessed: 22 May 2015).
  6. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011) 2011 Census Community Profiles. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics. Available at: (Accessed: 22 May 2015).
  7. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) 3238.0.55.001—Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, June 2011. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics. Available at: (Accessed: 10 November 2013).
  8. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015) 5220.0—Australian National Accounts: State Accounts, 2014–15. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics. Available at: (Accessed: 16 June 2016).
  9. Australian Law Reform Commission (1986) The Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws. Sydney: Australian Law Reform Commission.Google Scholar
  10. Banks, A. (2015) ‘Aboriginal Court Gets the Chop’, The West Australian, 14 August. Available at: (Accessed: 20 November 2018).
  11. Beranger, B., Weatherburn, D. and Moffatt, S. (2010) ‘Reducing Indigenous Contact with the Court System’, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research: Crime and Justice Statistics Bureau Brief, 54, pp. 1–4.Google Scholar
  12. Biddle, N. and Montaigne, M. (2012) ‘Australian Census: Not Quite the US, but Income Gap Widens’, The Conversation. Available at: (Accessed: 25 May 2015).
  13. Borowski, A. (2010) ‘Indigenous Participation in Sentencing Young Offenders: Findings from an Evaluation of the Children’s Koori Court of Victoria’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 43, pp. 465–484.Google Scholar
  14. Borowski, A. (2011) ‘In Courtroom 7—The Children’s Koori Court at Work: Findings from an Evaluation’, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 55(7), pp. 1110–1134.Google Scholar
  15. Courts Administration Authority of South Australia (2012) Courts Administration Authority: Home. Adelaide. Available at: (Accessed: 11 September 2012).
  16. Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia (CIRCA) (2008) Evaluation of Circle Sentencing Program: Report. Sydney: NSW Attorney General’s Department.Google Scholar
  17. Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia (CIRCA) (2013) Evaluation of Indigenous Justice Programs—Project A: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sentencing Courts and Conferences, Final Report. Sydney: Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia.Google Scholar
  18. Cunneen, C. and Rowe, S. (2014) ‘Changing Narratives: Colonised Peoples, Criminology and Social Work’, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 3(1), pp. 49–67.Google Scholar
  19. Daly, K. and Marchetti, E. (2012) ‘Innovative Justice Processes: Restorative Justice, Indigenous Justice and Therapeutic Jurisprudence’, in Marmo, M., De Lint, W., & Palmer, D. (eds.) Crime and Justice: A Guide to Criminology. Pyrmont: Lawbook Co., pp. 455–481.Google Scholar
  20. Daly, K. and Proietti-Scifoni, G. (2009) Defendants in the Circle: Nowra Circle Court, the Presence and Impact of Elders, and Re-offending. Brisbane: School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University.Google Scholar
  21. Ferrante, A. (2012) ‘Assessing the Influence of “Standard” and “Culturally Specific” Risk Factors on the Prevalence and Frequency of Offending: The Case of Indigenous Australians’, Race and Justice, 3(1), pp. 58–82.Google Scholar
  22. Fitzgerald, J. (2008) Does Circle Sentencing Reduce Aboriginal Offending? Contemporary Issues in Crime and Justice No. 115. Sydney: NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. Available at: (Accessed: 18 May 2015).
  23. Harris, M. (2004) ‘From Australian Courts to Aboriginal Courts in Australia—Bridging the Gap?’, Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 16(1), pp. 26–41.Google Scholar
  24. Harris, M. (2006) “A Sentencing Conversation”: Evaluation of the Koori Courts Pilot Program October 2002–October 2004. Melbourne: Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  25. Madden, S. (2007) ‘The Circle Court in the ACT—An Overview and Its Future’, Australian Institute of Judicial Administration Indigenous Courts Conference, 4–7 September. Mildura: Australian Institute of Judicial Administration.Google Scholar
  26. Marchetti, E. and Daly, K. (2007) ‘Indigenous Sentencing Courts: Towards a Theoretical and Jurisprudential Model’, Sydney Law Review, 29(3), pp. 416–443.Google Scholar
  27. McAsey, B. (2005) ‘A Critical Evaluation of the Koori Court Division of the Victorian Magistrates’ Court’, Deakin Law Review, 10(2), pp. 655–685.Google Scholar
  28. Moore, T. (2012) ‘Diversionary Courts Fall Victim to Funding Cuts’, Brisbane Times, 13 September. Available at: (Accessed: 20 November 2018).
  29. Morgan, A. and Louis, E. (2010) Evaluation of the Queensland Murri Court: Final Report. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.Google Scholar
  30. Parker, N. and Pathé, M. (2006) Report on the Review of the Murri Court. Brisbane: Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney-General.Google Scholar
  31. Potas, I., Smart, J., Brignell, G., Thomas, B. and Lawrie, R. (2003) Circle Sentencing in New South Wales: A Review and Evaluation. Sydney: Judicial Commission of New South Wales.Google Scholar
  32. Queensland Government (2016) Murri Court Opens in Rockhampton. Brisbane: Queensland Government. Available at: (Accessed: 13 April 2016).
  33. (2015) Suburb Profiles. Richmond: Available at: (Accessed: 22 May 2015).
  34. Snowball, L. and Weatherburn, D. (2006) ‘Indigenous Over-Representation in Prison: The Role of Offender Characteristics’, Crime and Research Bulletin: Contemporary Issues in Crime and Justice, 99, pp. 1–20.Google Scholar
  35. Stewart, A. P., Legislative Assembly (2002) Second Reading Speech: Crimes Legislation Amendment (Criminal Justice Interventions) Bill. Sydney: New South Wales Parliament.Google Scholar
  36. Stobbs, N. and Mackenzie, G. (2009) ‘Evaluating the Performance of Indigenous Sentencing Courts’, Australian Indigenous Law Review, 13(2), pp. 90–105.Google Scholar
  37. Tomaino, J. (2004) Information Bulletin: Aboriginal (Nunga) Courts. Adelaide: Office of Crime Statistics and Research.Google Scholar
  38. Trees, K. (2006) ‘Contemporary Issues Facing Customary Law and the General Legal System: Roebourne—A Case Study’, in Law Reform Commission of Western Australia (ed.) Aboriginal Customary Laws: Project 94 Background Papers. Perth: Law Reform Commission of Western Australia, pp. 213–234.Google Scholar
  39. Watson, I. (2000) ‘Kaldowinyeri—Munaintya in the Beginning’, Flinders Journal of Law Reform, 4(1), pp. 3–17.Google Scholar
  40. Weatherburn, D. and Holmes, J. (2010) ‘Re-thinking Indigenous Over-Representation in Prison’, Australian Journal of Social Issues, 45(4), pp. 560–576.Google Scholar
  41. Wundersitz, J. (2010) Indigenous Perpetrators of Violence: Prevalence and Risk Factors for Offending. Research and Public Policy Series No. 105. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Griffith Law SchoolGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations