22:11, May 30 267 0 theguardian.com

2018-05-30 22:11:09
Youth Koori court in NSW extended, with $2.7m for three more years

New South Wales has extended a pilot youth Koori court program to a second court in a move the Aboriginal Legal Service has said will reduce Indigenous youth detention rates.

The state attorney general, Mark Speakman, announced on Thursday that he would commit $2.7m over three years to extend the program to the children’s court in Surry Hills.

Three weeks ago elders involved in the first pilot youth Koori court in Parramatta, which has dealt with 92 young offenders since the one-day-a-week trial began in 2015, called on Speakman to commit to supporting the program.

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The chief executive of the NSW Aboriginal Legal Service, Lesley Turner, thanked Speakman for the decision, which he said would reduce recidivism rates among young Aboriginal people and in turn reduce youth detention.

Aboriginal children in NSW are jailed at 17 times the rate of non-Aboriginal children. Indigenous children were detained at 18 times the rate of non-Indigenous children in 2016-17, up from 15 times the year before.

“If we support young people and tackle social issues, which can trigger reoffending, we then significantly reduce the risk of them engaging with the criminal justice system,” Turner said.

“We want young Aboriginal with their families, in their communities, not in detention.”

A University of Western Sydney researcher, Melissa Williams, a Bundjalung woman, co-wrote an evaluation report on the Parramatta trial that found it had reduced the average number of days young people spent in detention.

She said the extension was “great news”.

“To have support in place for our people, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, I think that is a great step forward,” she said.

Williams said the program, which is modelled on the Victorian Koori court, worked because it involved Indigenous elders “from start to finish”.

“It’s not until they are around the table having open conversation that we can get a true understanding of where the support needs to be implemented,” she said.