The Federation Press

Specialist Courts for Sentencing Aboriginal Offenders

Aboriginal Courts in Australia


The specialist Aboriginal Court is one of the most important and controversial measures introduced in recent decades to address the disadvantage and particular needs of Aboriginal people in the criminal courts of Australia. This book offers a comprehensive analysis of Aboriginal Courts and their relationship to the criminal justice system.

The Aboriginal Court is examined from practical and theoretical perspectives: the rationale for a specialist court for Aboriginal people, its aims, how they work, what they achieve and its critics. It describes the differing models of Aboriginal Courts in each jurisdiction, identifying their common features whilst emphasising their diverse and fundamentally localised nature. The analysis of what Aboriginal Courts achieve is introduced with a summary of current research on a range of outcomes: Aboriginal community participation, better sentencing information and attendance and recidivism rates.

The book’s central theme is that Aboriginal Court sentencing provides a simple and direct way for Aboriginal people to be heard and understood in a manner rarely achieved by a mainstream magistrates court in a busy list. This unique approach empowers and involves Aboriginal people in the court process, reducing barriers of language, culture and social disadvantage whilst better informing the sentencing court on the often complex needs of Aboriginal offenders, victims and their communities.

Specialist Courts for Sentencing Aboriginal Offenders draws on current literature, academic and government research and the author’s experience as a lawyer and magistrate in Aboriginal, specialist and mainstream criminal courts to explore how Aboriginal Courts have developed, their significance and to propose their more widespread use.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Justice Jenny Blokland
About the Author

1.   Introduction
2.  How Aboriginal Courts Work
3.  The Roles of the Participants
4.  The Decision-making Process
5.  What Do Aboriginal Courts Achieve?
6.  Theory and Critiques
7.  Conclusion

Appendix: Table of Aboriginal Courts – 31 July 2015

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