Planned Burnie Courts redevelopment
In recent months there has been considerable community and media attention (particularly in the Northwest) regarding the proposed relocation of the Burnie Courts to the former University of Tasmania facility in Mooreville Road (approximately 3.5 kilometres from the Burnie CBD). Due to the cost of the project (currently budgeted for $40 million) it is currently being considered by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works. The committee received submissions and concluded a public hearing in mid-December 2021. The Committee is yet to hand down its report, but it is expected shortly.
Immediate Past President, Trevor McKenna, hosted a forum on 14 December 2020 in Burnie specifically in relation to the proposed relocation of the Courts. Sixteen members of the profession attended. A number of issues and concerns regarding the proposed relocation of the Court were identified in the forum. Consequently, a letter was sent to the Department of Justice outlining the Society’s concerns and setting out what the Society considers to be important planning points for any new court.
Recently, the Society has had three meetings with Department of Justice and the Attorney-General representatives. Those meetings have been dedicated to two major themes. The first is the suitability of the site of the redevelopment and whether there are viable alternative sites in the Burnie CBD. The second is, assuming the proposed relocation and redevelopment proceeds, what are the ‘must haves’ from the profession’s point of view.
One of the Society’s principal concerns is the impact that the relocation of the Courts outside of the CBD and the consequent travel for Burnie-based practitioners may have on access to justice. Specifically, we are concerned that the time, cost and inconvenience of travel may reduce the viability of areas of practice that involve frequent court appearances; such as criminal law, child protection and family law. This is of particular concern for practitioners whose practice involves a large proportion of clients funded by Legal Aid. In this respect, the Society is emphasising the importance of having suitable office facilities available for members of the profession in the new facility if the proposed relocation and redevelopment proceeds in order to alleviate the need for practitioners to travel to and from the Courts throughout the day. This will potentially benefit all practitioners, not just those based in Burnie.
The Society has been assured that there are currently no suitable alternative sites for the Courts in Burnie. We have also been assured that a redevelopment of the existing Court facility would result in the facility being unavailable for use throughout the redevelopment; leaving Burnie without a Court facility for an extended period. It is also clear that the current Court facility is not fit for purpose.
Council will further consider this issue during its meeting tomorrow.
COVID-19 impacts and wellbeing
I understand that delays in court proceedings arising from the current COVID-19 outbreak in Tasmania is causing difficulties for some practitioners who have turned down potential work in anticipation of hearings which have now been postponed. My thoughts are with practitioners who have been adversely affected in this way or otherwise by the current difficult circumstances.
I would strongly encourage members to avail themselves of our employee assistance program if they are finding the current circumstances difficult. Links to those services can be found in the weekly update.
Finally, I would like to recommend the following two resources:
The first is the free online mindfulness course offered by Associate Professor Craig Hassed and Dr Richard Chambers through Monash University which can be found via the following link: https://www.monash.edu/news/articles/learn-mindfulness-in-free-online-monash-course . I have personally found this course very beneficial in terms of managing stress and improving wellbeing and productivity. It requires very minimal time commitment and pays real dividends in terms of productivity.
The second is the interview by Hugh, Ryan and Josh (The Imperfects) with Ben Crowe with can be found via the following link: https://theresilienceproject.com.au/podcasts/the-academy-of-imperfection-ben-crowe/ . The Imperfects and the Academy of Imperfection are offshoots from Hugh van Cuylenburg’s excellent book (and business of the same name) “the Resilience Project”. Their interview with Ben Crowe is quite profound and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Legal Profession Dinner
I am pleased to let the profession know that the Society intends to hold the 2022 Legal Profession Dinner on Friday 29 July at the Crowne Plaza in Hobart. Invitations will be sent closer to the event and I encourage you to mark your diary now.