I was troubled to learn yesterday (unexpectedly) that from 12 November 2021 the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Court) will not have the ability to utilise the premises of the Supreme Court and/or Magistrates Court of Tasmania at Devonport and Burnie.

The sudden change comes about because of the appointment of Justice Jago to the Supreme Court of Tasmania at Burnie. As I have previously remarked the Society welcomes and applauds Justice Jago’s appointment to the Burnie registry of the Supreme Court.

As noted by Judge Turnbull yesterday (see here) the sittings of 4 October 2021 and 8 November 2021 will remain in Burnie but all matters listed (and to be listed in the future), after 12 November 2021 will be listed in Launceston.

The Society is concerned about the impact this sudden change will have on litigants including the obvious (added) burden placed on those living in Burnie or those who, prior to this change, had to travel to Burnie to access the Court.

Although many Court events occur by electronic means (especially listings before Judicial Registrars and Senior Judicial Registrars) the impact on all litigants cannot be understated. This is especially so for those litigants who, for social or economic reasons, may not have access to their own private transport and who are dependent on limited (and costly) public transport. Further, technology isn’t necessarily the cure to this sudden problem because those same Court users often do not have the benefit of up-to-date technology sufficient to connect them to the Court.

The Society has written to Judge Turnbull offering our support. So too I have written to the Department of Justice and to the Court’s Chief Justice and Chief Judge noting our concerns and asking for information to feed back to those many members (and the media) who have contacted me out of concern.

My Final Meeting of Law Society Presidents

On Friday, 17 September 2021 I participated in my final round of Law Council of Australia meetings noting my term as the Society’s President concludes on 16 October 2021.

The topics and themes discussed at the Law Society Presidents meeting included:

  • Mandatory COVID-19 vaccines in the Legal Profession
  • The extension of the emergency pandemic powers of State and Territory governments
  • Advancing First Nations in the Legal Profession

Our colleagues in New South Wales and Victoria spoke about several issues that affect the profession. Much of that focus was on the stress and confusion legal practitioners experienced at the commencement of a lockdown period when interacting with Courts.

We’ve been so incredibly fortunate in Tasmania without having had to deal with the consequences of a coronavirus outbreak and it has been a concern to me that our good fortune may catch us out in the event of a snap lock down.

Against that background I have sent a letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Chief Magistrate asking about their Court’s contingency planning. Once this information is produced by the Court we will share it with members.

If members have any concerns or any issues they would like the Law Society to consider in the context of COVID-10 contingency planning please contact me.

Reconciliation Action Plan

Unlike many of our counterparts around Australia, the Society does not have a Reconciliation Action Plan.

Reconciliation is about strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, for the benefit of all Australians.

Alison Wells and I will be meeting with Reconciliation Tasmania next week to discuss and map out a proposed development plan as part of the Society’s consideration of developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

It is my aim to present to my final meeting of Council on 16 October 2021 a proposed plan for the Society to develop a RAP, a process that will likely take 12 months to complete. I am confident you will hear more about the Society’s plans after our 16 October meeting.  

Funding of Law Library and Duty Lawyers Scheme

The recent state budget contained an allocation of $2.2 million dollars a year over four years for the Tasmanian Legal assistance sector. The Society has received confirmation from the Attorney General the Hon. Elise Archer MP of the allocation of funding of $498,015 per year over four years to the Society for the following purposes:

  • $291,015.00 contribution to the maintenance and development of the Tasmanian Law Library
  • $207,000.00 to continue the important Duty Lawyer scheme run by the Society, Centre for Legal Studies ad Hobart Community Legal Service.

The Attorney General also confirmed that some of the $2.2 million will be directed to innovative projects that improve Tasmanians’ access to Justice.