Going to Court

The NSW Department of Communities & Justice is committed to improving access to our services for people with are from multicultural communities. This includes all the courts and tribunals in NSW. We want to make it easier for people from multicultural communities to get assistance when attending court.

Why people go to court

People go to court for many different reasons, including:

Courts in NSW 

There are three main courts in NSW:

  • Local Court - most cases that come before a court are heard here by a Magistrate

  • District Court - serious cases are heard by a judge and jury

  • Supreme Court - the most serious cases such as murder are generally heard by a Supreme court judge and a jury.

There are other courts and tribunals in NSW that deal with other matters.

What to expect when you attend a court or tribunal

Security and Safety

Sheriffs officers provide security in courts to make sure courts are a safe place for every one. While they may look like police, they are not.

Many courts use walk through metal detectors and x-ray machines to check bags just like at the airport. The sheriffs office can provide you with more information on court security and what you can and can not bring to court.

If you are scared about seeing the person who hurt you at court, you should tell someone who works at the court or a sheriffs officer. They will help you find somewhere safe to stay until your case is called.

In cases of domestic violence, support services will usually be available at the court. Contact the Domestic Violence Line for assistance.

The Director of Public Prosecutions provides a witness assistance service for all matters they are involved in. These matters are normally serious cases that can be heard by a judge and jury. Find out more the Witness Assistance Service.


If you require an interpreter in a criminal or apprehended violence matter, court staff can arrange an interpreter for free to be available on the day your case is heard. Advise the court   registry you require an interpreter as soon as you are aware of the court date.

For other matters including civil claims you will need to organise an interpreter for yourself. Find out more about arranging an interpreter for all other matters.


For all courts it is important that you turn up to court on time. The Transport Infoline131 500 ( Greater Sydney only) can provide bus, train, ferry routes and times to help you get to court. In regional areas contact your local transport service. If you are late the court can deal with your case with out you. This means the court may make orders against you .

As courts are very busy you may have to wait and it is important that you do not leave until your case has been heard. You should speak to the court officer to let them know that you are waiting for your case to be called. Once your case has been heard check with the office to find out about the orders that have been made by the court and to sign documents.

In Court

In courtroom you will be expected to:

  • Bow on entry and exiting the courtroom.

  • If speaking to the magistrate or judge you should call them 'your honour.'

  • Have your mobile phone switched off.

  • Refrain from eating or drinking.

  • Remain quiet unless invited to speak by the magistrate or judge.

  • Be respectful of the decisions made by the court.

If the court requires you to give evidence (that is telling the court what happened) you will be asked whether you want to give an oath or an affirmation. An oath is swearing to tell the truth by referring to God. An affirmation is swearing to tell the truth but not referring to God or any religious beliefs.

A video has been developed to assist people with cognitive disability that are required to attend a local court as a witness or a defendant. The video “So you have to go to court!” describes who is who in the local court (PDF 118 kb), how the court works and things you need to remember if you are a witness or a defendant. 

In NSW support services can contact Multicultural Policy & Engagement for a free copy of the DVD.

There are many complex legal terms that are used in court. The Victim's Services dictionary provides a list of words often used in court and their meanings.

Community Justice

Community Justice Centres provide mediation and conflict management services to help people resolve disputes without going to court. Mediators work to resolve disputes between neighbours, within families, workplaces and in larger communities. This service is free, confidential and available throughout New South Wales.

Legal Help 


The Law and You legal information for African communities in NSW.  

Find out more about the FREE DVD 'The Law And You legal information for African communities in NSW.'

Translated Brochures

Request for court assistance brochure  (PDF 45kb) allows a person with a disability to advise the court if they need a reasonable adjustment to attend court.  This brochure is also available in: