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Courts involving children and young people

When it is not safe for a child or young person to remain with their family, a court order may be necessary to provide a safe, stable and nurturing home.

Other courts and tribunals

Coroner’s Court

If there is a death of a child in the circumstances detailed below, then a senior coroner may hold an inquest into the death or suspected death of:

  • a child in care
  • a child, which may be due to abuse or neglect or that occurs in suspicious circumstances
  • a child who has been reported to the Department of Communities and Justice within 3 years immediately preceding their death, or that of one of their siblings.

Family Law Courts

Family Law Courts deal with family law matters and manage disputes between parents and carers with parental responsibility for children, including who the child lives with and who they spend time with.

DCJ works collaboratively with the Family Law Courts in parenting cases where there are child protection concerns. In 2020, a number of DCJ child protection practitioners were co-located at Family Law Courts in Sydney, Parramatta, Newcastle and Wollongong under a three year Commonwealth government pilot program. The program aimed at improving information sharing and collaboration between state and territory child protection agencies and Family Law Courts.

Family Law Courts may make a request under section 91B of the Family Law Act 1975 for DCJ to intervene in family law proceedings. DCJ sometimes intervenes in parenting proceedings in Family Law Courts where there are child protection concerns, rather than commencing separate Children’s Court proceedings. When DCJ intervenes in Family Law Court proceedings DCJ becomes party to the proceedings and may file evidence and/or seek orders.

The Family Law Courts can make an order under section 69ZW of the Family Law Act 1975, requiring DCJ to provide it with documents or information about:

  • Notifications to DCJ of suspected abuse of a child to whom the proceedings relate or of suspected family violence affecting the child.
  • Assessments by DCJ of investigations into a notification of that kind or the findings or outcomes of those investigations.
  • Reports commissioned by DCJ in the course of investigating a notification.

DCJ is required to respond to the order by providing the Family Law Courts with the documents and/or information by the date specified in the order.

Section 69ZK of the Family Law Act 1975 prevents the Family Court from making any order under the Family Law Act 1975 (other than a child maintenance order) about a child who is under the care of a person under a child welfare law, such as the Care Act.

The NSW Legal Aid Family Law Early Intervention Unit provides free family law services in courts and community organisations around NSW. The unit provides advice about family law issues and child protection concerns including cases involving children and young people and DCJ.

For more information see Family Court of Australia

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is a superior court with broad powers. It hears appeals of decisions of the President of the Children’s Court and can make adoption orders and orders for the care of children and young people in out-of-home care awaiting adoption. See more on Adoption.

See Supreme Court of NSW.

The Drug Court of NSW

The Drug Court of NSW is a specialist court located in three locations in NSW: Parramatta, Toronto and Sydney. This court accepts referrals from Local and District Courts of offenders who are dependent on illicit drugs.

The Drug Court of NSW attempts to address underlying drug dependency which has resulted in criminal offending.

More information: Drug Court NSW.

NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) provides specialist tribunal services in NSW.

Review of administrative decisions

NCAT can review decisions made by NSW Government agencies, including decisions about:

  • access to information held by government
  • use of and access to personal information held by government
  • administrative decisions made in the community services sector, such as a decision to move a child from their placement with an authorised carer.

NSW Youth Koori Court

The Youth Koori Court process operates within the Children’s Court for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have been found to have committed a criminal offence and who choose to be part of the Youth Koori Court. The Youth Koori Court provides a more informal, strengths-based alternative to mainstream courts. It involves the Aboriginal community and focuses on addressing the underlying issues causing the child or young person to enter the justice system.

To be eligible for the Youth Koori Court, the child must be of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, be between the ages of 10 and 17 at the time of the offence, and plead guilty to the offence.

See also the Children’s Court of NSW Resource Handbook – Youth Koori Court.

The Youth Koori Court is located at Parramatta and Surry Hills Children’s Courts. For more information see: Koori Court Fact Sheet and Koori Court Support Services.

Criminal matters

The Children’s Court of NSW deals with criminal offences where the defendant is under 18 years of age at the time of the alleged offence.

The Children’s Court also deals with traffic offences where the defendant is not old enough to hold a driver’s licence or permit.

All other traffic offences alleged to have been committed by persons under the age of 18 years are dealt with in the Local Court.

Depending on the nature of the alleged offence, some criminal matters involving young people may be dealt with in the District or Supreme Court.

For more information about being a witness or children involved in criminal cases, see Criminal cases.

Children may also be required to give evidence in criminal proceedings about harm that has been done to them. The Child Sexual Offence Evidence Program provides initiatives to assist child victims of sexual offences to engage with the criminal justice system.

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Last updated: 03 May 2021