New Shepparton Court complex will serve future generations

We enthusiastically welcome today’s announcement of funding to redevelop the Shepparton Court.

This is a historic day for Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley. We congratulate the Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark for making this critical investment. He is undoubtedly thinking about the needs of future generations and not just the immediate challenges facing the justice system.

Our lawyers regularly appear in the Shepparton Court on a range of matters including civil, criminal, family violence and child-protection cases. We are well aware of the facility’s limitations but also the commitment and resolve of Court staff to function as effectively as possible given the extremely difficult circumstances at present.

Regrettably courthouses are usually one of the last things to attract public funding – and yet they are such a critical part of civic infrastructure. This is especially so in rural areas. The law impacts our lives on a daily basis and without adequate facilities to support its administration and resolve disputes, it can impact very negatively.

Take the experience of victims of family violence, who can’t safely access a court-house or give instructions to their legal representatives in private. It’s simply unacceptable and yet it is the experience of many people in Victoria right now.

With thoughtful design this new and modern facility will serve the community well for decades to come. While courthouse design has historically been authoritarian and austere, the redevelopment of the courts complex provides a wonderful opportunity to balance a range of needs and aspirations in the design process and the final result. The design will need to reinforce a vision of a justice system that promotes rights, responsibilities, respect, accessibility and safety. It should aspire to achieve therapeutic benefits for court users, not alienation and disengagement.

This is a game-changer for the region and a major piece of the puzzle in offering therapeutic, life-changing experiences for people who have chaotic lifestyles and are struggling with substance abuse. It is certainly an expression of the State Government’s strong commitment to implement measures that will address the horrific incidence of methamphetamine use in our region and the criminal behaviour that follows it.

Judges and courts can provide critical interventions that have long-term benefits for people that come before them charged with various offences or having experienced abuse and violation. There is no doubt that the built environment can contribute to maximising positive outcomes. We’ve seen positive impacts in the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court and at the Collingwood Neighbourhood Justice Centre. Now it’s Shepparton’s turn.

We look forward to participating in the community consultation process and suggesting how the design can best support positive experiences for all of those who use it.

For further comment, please contact Goulburn Valley CLC Managing Lawyer Kaz Gurney on 0427 318 825.

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