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Family violence education for judges

Family violence education for judges

By Carolyn Ford

Family Court Judgment 


The strategic direction for the Judicial College of Victoria takes into account the disruptions the judiciary, courts and tribunal system will likely confront.

Family violence, youth justice, bail and sentencing practices will be a high priority in the continuing education of Victorian judges, magistrates and VCAT members.

The priority education needs are outlined in the future strategic direction of the Judicial College of Victoria (JCV), which provides judge-led education and resources for the judiciary.

The statement "Masters of our Fate" sets out the strategic direction for the JCV, now in its 15th year, up to 2025, taking into account the significant disruptions the judiciary, courts and tribunal system will likely confront.

Disruptions, it says, are likely to include challenges to the independence of the judiciary, more demands for public accountability and transparency, growing need for justice services, more intricate laws and legislation, dynamic policy settings, developments in technology including social media, artificial intelligence and automation as well as threats to security, including cyber-security, and evolving social, cultural and environmental issues.

In addition, the statement says, the judicial role will change and become more complex as it extends beyond decision making and adjudicative functions to operate in an evolving, internal environment which includes; the formation of Court Services Victoria, giving judicial officers the major role in governance and administration of courts and tribunals; the establishment of the Judicial Commission of Victoria, enabling closer scrutiny of judicial performance and the implementation of the International Framework for Court Excellence, sharpening the focus on the ability of the courts to serve the community.

Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, who is chair of the JCV, said judicial officers looked to the College to acquire and maintain competencies essential to their work.

"Learning is never static. As the world rapidly changes, our work and that of the College continues to evolve and grow; and it is important to clearly identify the ongoing purpose and scope of judicial education."

JCV CEO Samantha Burchell said the role of judges was now considerably more complex and education needed to keep up with that and evaluate what skills judges need.

"Our work traditionally was focused on changes to substantive law, writing judgments and delivering oral decisions. But now the breadth of what judges do is so much more."

As well as enabling judicial officers to work effectively, education played a vital part in maintaining the community's confidence in judicial officers which was essential to the rule of law.

Family violence education for judicial officers in particular will be even more of a focus at the JCV than it has been in recent years. This follows substantial state government funding for the JCV in the 2017-18 state budget. One of the biggest financial investments in judicial education in the past decade, it allows for tailored education programs for the courts and VCAT, as well training for specialist teams at the Magistrates' Court.

Ms Burchell said the funding for judicial education recognises the key role played by judicial officers in preventing and responding to family violence.

"The complexity of the issues and the pace of reform means that support through specialised education is essential. We look forward to working closely with the courts to develop education programs and resources to support their important work, in partnership with key stakeholders within the family violence sector, academia and the legal profession," Ms Burchell said.

The funding will go towards implementation of recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which emphasised the importance of support for workforce development across the system, including education for judges and VCAT members.

To further ensure Victorian judges are at the forefront of knowledge and practice through education and research, the JCV aims to:

  • publish new benchbooks – there are now 14 – tailored to emerging needs and priorities
  • conduct applied research and expand information, research and analysis services, such as its world-first empirical research project into judicial stress and wellbeing and an evaluation of Victorian jury directions
  • commercialise its offerings to a wider audience by providing training and bespoke education programs for legal and other organisations interstate and overseas. In August, the JCV will present on judicial wellbeing for the Supreme Court of Singapore. Its Court Craft 360 degree survey for the judiciary has been adapted for the Office of Public Prosecutions to provide feedback to their prosecutors
  • develop new partnerships with organisations, policy makers and academic experts
  • prioritise digital initiatives to provide transformative educational and information services.

The JCV was established in 2002, with bipartisan support, under statute to deliver education and support to Victorian judicial officers and tribunal members.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by commentators are not necessarily endorsed by the Law Institute of Victoria Ltd (LIV). No responsibility is accepted by the LIV for the accuracy of information contained in the comments and the LIV expressly disclaims any liability for, with respect to or arising from any such views.

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