Court officers are unique to ALSWA. Court Officers are Aboriginal people employed by ALSWA. One of the main duties of an ALSWA Court Officer is to represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Court of Petty Sessions and Children’s Court. A Court Officer’s authority to appear in Court comes from a Certificate granted under Section 48 of the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972 (WA).
ALSWA’s Court Officer Unit is headed by a Unit Manager, who is based in ALSWA’s head officer at Perth, and who is responsible for all Court Officers in Western Australia.
There are several Court Officers based in Perth and one Court Officer in each of ALSWA’s regional offices. In some of those regional offices, the Court Officer is also the office manager.
Most Court Officers employed in ALSWA’s regional offices are from local communities. They therefore have a full understanding of local issues and understand local languages.
ALSWA’s Court Officers in regional areas, especially remote regional areas like Halls Creek, Roebourne and Newman, are often the only local permanent legal service. They are therefore on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and deal with all aspects of the legal system in Western Australia, including criminal law, family law, civil law and human rights matters.
Duties of a Court Officer
The main responsibilities of a Court Officer are:
- To represent clients in the Court of Petty Sessions and Children’s Court for pleas of guilty, not guilty, remands and bail applications;
- To assist in ensuring strong and successful communication between ALSWA lawyers and clients. This includes acting as a bridge in communication when there are language barriers, to ensure complete understanding and ultimately the proper representation of clients;
- To do regular prison visits;
- To provide basic legal advice to clients on all legal issues;
- To do community legal education and liaison within Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and wider communities.
Qualifications and Training of Court Officers
Court Officers are not lawyers. An Aboriginal person does not need any formal qualifications to become a Court Officer.
Court Officers are provided with intensive in house training and supervision by ALSWA. Training covers legal procedures, substantive law and advocacy. Continuing legal education is provided throughout a Court Officer’s employment.
Court Officers need to have:
- Good report writing skills;
- Public speaking skills;
- Good organisational skills;
- A driver’s licence;
- A police clearance.
Summary and Contact Details
ALSWA’s Court Officers provide a vital service in Western Australia. Without them, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in many regional and remote areas in Western Australia would not have access to a legal service at all, and within the metropolitan area ALSWA’s capacity to adequately service Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples would also be severely affected. Court officers are ALSWA’s front liners. In many cases it is the Court Officer who has first contact with ALSWA’s clients.
Court Officers can be contacted via any of ALSWA’s regional offices, or through the Perth office during normal office hours. In emergency situations for criminal law matters, the after hours contact number for metropolitan Court Officers is 9265 6644. This number is available from 5pm – 8.30am on weekdays and 24 hours a day on weekends and public holidays.