In some countries, you can’t ask a question of a government official, you can’t request explanations, and you can’t set foot inside official buildings. In some countries there aren’t even courts. In some countries, the law can sentence you to death.
The relationship between the public and those who govern them is not one that enjoys analysis worldwide and in fact the very idea that it might is often considered radical and dangerous. In our country, by and large, it barely rates a second thought. Law Week, and particularly Courts Open Day, which takes place today for one day only, is designed to interrogate these ideas and to give the people (that’s you) full and free access to the court system and to those who work within it.
And you might be surprised at what you can discover.
Did you know that when you go to court there are independent Court Network volunteers whose role is to help you get through your court experience? Did you know there are Supreme Court Judges? You did? Ah, but have you ever spoken to one? The very popular Law Week Meet the Judge session opens up the court and invites you to ask questions of a Judge, while school groups are taken through the trial process by a tour guide who knows a thing or two about trials – a judge. Do you know how juries are put together in Australia or what happens when you’re on one? The Jury Service session is eye-opening, sometimes confronting and always a little bit inspiring. There’s a history and heritage tour and (if you were lucky enough to get tickets) a tour of the Supreme Court dungeons.
And that’s just the Supreme Court. The Magistrates’ Court has a mock criminal court hearing, a chat with the Chief Magistrate, and the illuminating Walk In Her Shoes, where you personally experience the process of applying for a Family Violence Intervention Order by walking in the shoes of the applicant and asking questions of experienced court staff along the way. And while they’ve got you, they might as well recruit you. If you’re interested in a career as a court registrar, come to the info session and learn more.
If you read the papers you will have heard of Fair Work Australia. Want to know more? Today’s your day (see here).
If an open and accessible courts system doesn’t convince you that you live in a civilised and privileged country, surely the Courts Open Day BBQ will.
Judges of the County Court, Magistrates’ Court, VCAT and the former Juries Commissioner bung a snag on the barbie to raise money for Berry Street, the children’s support and welfare service.
Dungeons, an independent judiciary, and sausages. What’s not to love? Full program here.