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Welcome Judge Ian Gray


Cite as: March 2013 87 (3) LIJ, p.22

Judge Ian Gray was welcomed to the County Court of Victoria and as State Coroner on 4 December 2012. Among the speakers was 2012 LIV president Michael Holcroft. This is an edited version of his speech.

I appear on behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state to congratulate your Honour on your appointment as a judge of this court and as State Coroner.

Your Honour has been an outstanding magistrate and Chief Magistrate – and the developments in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria under your leadership have been extraordinary.

When your Honour returned from your adventures as a deck-hand on a prawn trawler, you served articles with Philip Gleeson at Gleeson & Co. After admission to practice in April 1975, you became an employee solicitor at Schilling Missen & Impey.

Your Honour was still not quite ready to settle into the practice of law. You headed off overseas with Tony Howard, now Judge Howard.

The two of you went from Thailand through India, Burma, Nepal, Pakistan and on through Iran to Greece – and from there to London.

You saw in Pakistan a novel form of summary justice – not one your Honour has sought to introduce in the Northern Territory or here in Victoria.

You saw in a train in Lahore a gleaming British-racing-green carriage marked in gold-leaf as the “Court Car”.

This was, you learned, not for grand travel of the court on circuit. Rather, it was part of the Pakistani framework of summary justice for fare-evaders. The conductors would bring fare-evaders to the court car, where a magistrate would dispense summary justice and offenders would immediately be lodged in cells on the train.

On your return to Melbourne, you became a community lawyer at the Nunawading Legal Service then became a solicitor with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. During this time, you also conducted a part-time sole practice as a solicitor.

Your Honour then went to the Victorian Bar, signing the Bar Roll in November 1982.

After about four years at the Bar, you went to the Northern Territory to work with Aboriginal Australians.

You became the principal legal adviser to the Northern Land Council in Darwin.

In the four years that your Honour held that position, you represented the Land Council in a broad range of matters. You advised the Land Council on contractual matters involving access to its lands for commercial purposes. You negotiated on its behalf with mining companies that were seeking to conduct exploration and then mining.

Your Honour was also involved in the conduct of litigation concerning all aspects of land claims by the Northern Land Council. Your Honour appeared in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, the Federal Court and the High Court.

Later, in the latter half of your term as Chief Magistrate of the Northern Territory, you served as a member of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

Your Honour’s concern for Aboriginal people has been a constant and you have worked tirelessly, and often in difficult circumstances, for them and for their benefit.

The pilot scheme for the establishment of the Koori Courts was about 10 years ago in Shepparton. As with all initiatives, your Honour consulted widely and supported Magistrate Dr Kate Auty in her work in the establishment of a Koori Court in Shepparton.

At your Honour’s welcome as Victorian Chief Magistrate in April 2001, you described the Magistrates’ Court as “the People’s Court”. Your Honour took pride that, in your court, magistrates and registrars are in touch with, or connected to, the community through a myriad of programs, outreaches, information sessions, court user forums, open days, mock court sittings, court tours and school presentations.

By way of concrete examples, in 2010, the Sunshine Magistrates’ Court invited members of the African community to an open day. The Dandenong Court has implemented programs such as the Sudanese family mediation program and appointed a community engagement worker with strong ties to the African community.

Your Honour has also appeared on ABC radio with Jon Faine to engage with the community and to answer questions about the court.

It is believed that your Honour may be the longest-serving Victorian Chief Magistrate. Although my researches have not been exhaustive, it certainly appears that your term of more than 11 and a half years may be a record to date.

Certainly your Honour has served as Chief Magistrate with singular distinction.

Characteristically, you always give credit to those who work in the courts you have led. Unsurprisingly, at your Honour’s farewell by the court staff in Melbourne, reference was made to “the grace with which you conduct yourself when dealing with staff and the respect you afford [to] every person you come in contact with” and “always a kind word about the quality of work” and “support[ing] the needs of staff”.

On behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state, I wish your Honour satisfying and distinguished service as a judge of this court and as State Coroner.


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