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Scaling greater heights

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Cite as: (2004) 78(3) LIJ, p. 31

New magistrate Reg Marron is used to reaching the pinnacle of anything to which he sets his mind.

It would surprise no one who knows recently appointed Magistrate Reg Marron that he has reached a peak of the legal profession.

As a life-long rock climber, Mr Marron has scaled some of the most precarious peaks in the world, including the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park in the United States.

As a reminder of that climb, an Ansell Adams picture of the rockface sits proudly in his new office in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.

Now, with his appointment to the magistracy on 16 December, Mr Marron stands head and shoulders once again above his peers.

He said he was attracted to the appointment because of the way the Magistrates’ Court has developed more sentencing options and programs over the past few years to give defendants the best chance of getting their life in order.

“I have often felt that historically magistrates, in creating a sentencing option, send someone out there on a wing and a prayer and in the hope that these other services may pick them up.

“Now, what happens is that before a person is finally dealt with here that information [whether a service will help the defendant] is known beforehand.

“That’s the big difference and from that point of view you are part of the process.”

While Mr Marron, who turned 50 four days before his appointment, is embarking on a long career on the Bench, the journey there was not a traditional one.

Born and raised in Tasmania, Mr Marron studied accountancy at RMIT until he lost interest and became an outdoor equipment salesman. He then went on to follow his father’s steps in construction, which led to work overseas.

He became a construction foreman in Alaska, Papua New Guinea and Saudi Arabia until he realised at age 29 this life was not for him.

“It wasn’t until 1983 I looked around the people I was with and saw that the people who were older than me were reasonably fit and single, but they were getting old and it was basically a rather lonely lifestyle.

“I decided to come back to Australia, but I had no idea what I wanted to do.

“It was then that I sat down with a number of career guidance people, which I sought out professionally.”

It was a University of Melbourne career guidance counsellor who suggested that he try the law.

He went back to Tasmania to study law from 1984 to 1987. “I have never, ever looked back since. I knew straight away that this was exactly what I was meant to do.”

After completing his studies, Mr Marron did his articles at the Hobart firm of Wallace Wilkinson and Webster. He worked for the Hobart Community Legal Centre in 1992 before deciding to head back to Melbourne and join the Bar.

Despite finding it difficult to get his practice going because of his lack of Victorian contacts, Mr Marron eventually built a healthy career, mostly in criminal law.

He recites with a smile that the one and only Supreme Court murder trial he conducted was completed on the day he was appointed to the Magistrates’ Court.

A good day was made better when the jury returned a verdict in his client’s favour.

Mr Marron said his different path to the magistracy would allow him to bring to the Court unique skills.

“This is a team business. If I were sitting here by myself doing my own work it just wouldn’t work.

“[But] you work with the clerks, you work with the other magistrates, you work with the other staff, you work with all the other agencies and that’s how things get resolved.

“That is what I am good at. I’m as interested in the growth of the Court as I am sitting in court.”

For this magistrate, it is about helping others climb the mountain.

Jason Silverii

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