AIJA Matters - November 2022

The office of the AIJA is located on the traditional lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to the Gadigal elders past and present, to all the Gadigal people and to all First Nations peoples

Message from the President

Welcome to AIJA Matters, our bi-monthly update for AIJA members.

On the last weekend in October we hosted, with support from the Law Society of New South Wales, the 2022 AIJA Indigenous Youth Justice Conference. It was uplifting to spend time with so many people with a shared passion for improving the justice response to Indigenous youth justice in our country.

I would like to thank the 40+ expert presenters, including Elders, community leaders, medical specialists and academics, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of the judiciary and legal profession, for sharing their time, expertise and insights. We were delighted to be joined by so many of our New Zealand colleagues as well.

I particularly thank our first keynote speaker, The Hon. Chansey Paech MLA, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Northern Territory Government. He said:
“We are gathered here because shamefully we have what some may call a national crisis. A crisis where half of the children aged between 10 and 17 in detention are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. A crisis where an increasing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with complex behaviours and psychological needs are being placed in the child protection and juvenile justice systems. A crisis where I have seen my very own community, my brothers, my sisters, my family dealing with the irreparable harm of lifelong effects of trauma and complex health related issues such as foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. A crisis that can only be repaired when we start truly valuing Indigenous lives. I mean truly valuing them. And when we start valuing Indigenous lives in the justice system, we will start to see a new-age movement of justice.”


Indigenous Youth Justice Conference Speakers L to R: The Hon Chansey Paech MLA, Attorney General of the NT; Judge Louis Bidois,District Court of New Zealand and Lead Rangatahi (Maori Youth) Court; Debbie Kilroy OAM, Sisters Inside and The Hon Shane Rattenbury, Attorney General of the ACT


Among the many issues addressed at the conference was the critical issue of raising the age of criminal responsibility in Australia. As Tony McAvoy SC (AIJA’s Indigenous Justice Committee Co-Convenor) says: “It is legally, medically and morally unjustifiable that we continue to criminalise children as young as 10 in this way. It is even more difficult to comprehend that in a society, which is so replete with wealth and privilege, that we cannot accommodate a non-criminalised pathway for our most disadvantaged young people.”

I thank especially Justice Dina Yehia, Tony McAvoy SC, the Conference Organising Committee, our secretariat, Alison MacDonald, Erika Childs and the Law Society of New South Wales.  To register to view the Conference on demand , visit the AIJA Indigenous Youth Justice Conference website.


Indigenous Youth Justice Conference Speakers L to R: The Hon Justice Dina Yehia, Supreme Court of New South Wales; Tony McAvoy SC; Chief Judge of the District Court of New Zealand Heemi Taumaunu and Gabrielle Bashir SC, President, NSW Bar Association


We also held the AIJA AGM on Friday 28 October and, as a result, the AIJA has three new Council Members: Maria Dew KC (NZ), Madeline Brennan KC (QLD) and Deputy Chief Judge Meryl Sexton (County Court of Victoria). Our new Council Members are profiled later in this update. I would also like to express our gratitude to Justice Steven Rares, who stepped down from the Council at the AGM, for his considerable contribution to the AIJA over many years (including as President from 2019-2021) and Justice Michael Elkaim, who has been a valued contributor to the Council and the Research Committee.

I would also like to congratulate the AIJA members recently appointed to the bench, including Justice Jayne Jagot who was appointed to the High Court from her position as a Judge of the Federal Court and Justice Michael Lundberg who has been appointed to the Western Australia Supreme Court in November 2022. We include more information about their appointments later in this update.

I hope you enjoy this issue of AIJA Matters.

The Honourable Justice Jenny Blokland
President, The Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration

Excellence in Focus

Conference Feedback
We have received very positive feedback from attendees at the 2022 AIJA Indigenous Youth Justice Conference.

The sessions were rated highly and survey feedback included positive commentary, such as: “the conference exceeded my expectations”, “inspiring”, “very worthwhile”, “differing views and approaches were well represented”, “provided an interesting comparative to the difference in approach from New Zealand” and "this was an excellent conference and topic of young people interfacing with the legal system is always of interest”.  We also received notes of thanks, which included comments such as: “An excellent event and I’m grateful I was there”.

Significant new projects in the pipeline
We are pleased to report that work has started on several timely AIJA projects, including:

  • Judicial gender statistics report – we have commissioned a discussion paper looking at a range of issues highlighted by the judicial gender statistics the AIJA has been capturing since 2000.
  • First Nations representation on juries – this is an important report that is due to be released early-mid 2023.
  • Complaint-handling in tribunals – work has started on this guide, which has been commissioned by the AIJA and the Council of Australian Tribunals.
  • Unrepresented accused in the Magistrates Court of Victoria – the AIJA has commissioned this report into contested matters, which will complement our earlier work on uncontested matters (available here).

In Profile

Maria Dew KC
President, New Zealand Bar Association

Maria has a specialist practice in employment law, professional misconduct and related civil litigation. Currently, Maria also holds various appointments including as Council Member with the NZBA, Convener of the New Zealand Law Society Employment Law Committee and Deputy Chair of the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.

On joining the Council, Maria said: “I am delighted to be joining the AIJA Council in my capacity as President of the New Zealand Bar Association | Ngā Ahorangi Motuhake o te Ture. The opportunity to share in, and contribute to, the work of the Council is a valuable opportunity for barristers in New Zealand and aligns with our aims of promoting and protecting access to justice, the rule of law and continued professional development for barristers.”

Madeline Brennan KC
Barrister, Roma Mitchell Chambers

Madeline has a specialist practice in taxation and revenue law, administrative law and competition and consumer law. These areas encompass a broad range of industries, including mining and resources, health and aged care and SMEs.

Madeline said: “I was excited at the prospect of joining the Council, who are so generous in their time and dedication to researched improvements in the administration of justice at all levels of our justice system. The Council, through its interjurisdictional and broad-based membership, its judicial leadership, committee structure, and focus on engagement with all participants in the justice system, particularly the more vulnerable, has long demonstrated the practical benefits of a vibrant exchange of ideas directed at improving outcomes for those whose lives are affected by the justice system. With over 25 years’ experience at the bar, and as many on not-for-profit or government councils and boards, I hope to be able to contribute to the processes and the important work of the Council”.

Deputy Chief Judge Meryl Sexton
County Court of Victoria

Meryl, who was appointed to the newly created position of Deputy Chief Judge of the County Court of Victoria in February 2022, brings to the Council considerable expertise as a sitting judge and as an administrator.

For over 21 years, she has been a trial judge in the Criminal Division of the County Court of Victoria and, for much of that time, has been actively involved in court administration.

She has been a member or Chair of a variety of County Court, multi-jurisdictional and State Government committees, including serving 10 years on the Council of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine. She was a member of the editorial committee for the original AIJA Benchbook for Children Giving Evidence in Australian Courts. Meryl has also been a member of various committees, and presenter, for the National Judicial College of Australia.

Professional Updates

High Court changes
Congratulations to AIJA member Justice Jayne Jagot on her appointment to the High Court. Justice Jagot, who has been Judge of the Federal Court since 2008 and prior to that a judge of the New South Wales Land and Environment Court, is the 56th Justice of the High Court and the seventh woman appointed to the role. For the first time, a majority of the Justices of the High Court of Australia are women.

Dr Matthew Collins AM KC, (AIJA Board member) gave a speech at Justice Jagot’s swearing in ceremony in his capacity as President of the Australian Bar Association. He said: “One of the many reasons why the Australian community can have confidence that your Honour will discharge your duties as a Justice of this Court with distinction, and provide a bulwark for the Australian experiment, is that your Honour has, throughout your career, reflected deeply upon the intersection of the law and humanity.” You can read the full speech here.

Justice Jagot replaced Justice Patrick Keane, a former AIJA President (2010) and a life member of the AIJA, on his retirement. The Attorney-General thanked Justice Keane for his nine years of distinguished service.

Honorary Doctorate
On 28 October 2022, the University Technology Sydney conferred the degree of Honorary Doctorate on Tony McAvoy SC. We congratulate Tony on this latest, most appropriate honour which recognises his deep engagement with the law and wider community issues, especially concerning the rights of First Nations people.

First Aboriginal Supreme Court Judge appointed in WA
Congratulations to Justice Michael Lundberg on his appointment to the Supreme Court of Western Australia. Justice Lundberg has practised widely in commercial and civil law and in pro bono criminal matters. Chief Justice Peter Quinlan congratulated Justice Lundberg on his appointment and noted: “His appointment as the first Aboriginal member of the Court is a significant milestone in the Court's history, as we strive to foster trust and confidence in our justice system on the part of everyone in our community.”

Michael Kirby awarded life membership of IBA Council
Congratulations to AIJA Member, the Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG on being awarded Honorary Life membership of the Council of the International Bar Association. You can read more about his contribution to the IBA here.

Judges go bush
In September, the ABC published an article about 26 judges from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth who “headed bush to learn about the cultural complexities that can lead to miscarriages of justice.” During the three-day program, the judges learnt about key issues including the need for court interpreters and cultural protocols that can conflict with court instructions.

First Meetings of Referendum Working Group & Referendum Engagement Group
On 29 September 2022, the first meetings of the Referendum Working Group (which includes AIJA Council member Tony McAvoy SC) and the Referendum Engagement Group were held in Canberra. These two groups are working with Government on the next steps to a referendum in this term of Parliament to enshrine an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Constitution. The Referendum Engagement Group will attend a second meeting to advise on building community understanding, awareness and support for the referendum.

Justice Yehia’s appointment to Supreme Court of NSW
The appointment of Justice Dina Yehia, AIJA Council member and co-convenor of the AIJA’s Indigenous Justice Committee has received positive media coverage, including this  piece by the ABC.

Farewell to Jim Connolly
The AIJA wishes Jim Connolly all the best on his retirement. Jim was the Registrar of the Tasmanian Supreme Court for 10 years and was previously the Administrator of the Magistrates Court of Tasmania. Jim has been an active member of the Australasian Court Administrators Group.

ALRC calls for submissions regarding Financial Services Legislation: Interim Report B Interim Report B
The ALRC is seeking submissions in response to its proposals and questions raised in Financial Services Legislation: Interim Report B (ALRC Report 139). The Interim Report B contains proposals for an alternative legislative model that aims to be more coherent and principled, to accommodate change and to make the law easier to navigate.


ACLM Sydney Dinner Meeting 
The Australasian College of Legal Medicine is hosting a Sydney Dinner Meeting on 10 December 2022 as a satellite meeting in conjunction with the 26th World Congress for Medical Law. The event features guest speakers including The Honourable Justice David Collins, Court of Appeal of New Zealand, and Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission. You can register to attend here.
Inaugural Michael Kirby Lecture
This annual lecture, hosted by the ALRC, celebrates the law reform legacy of the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG. It will be held as a live stream event on Monday 5 December 2022 at 5.00pm AEST and will feature a keynote address by the Attorney-General of Australia, the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP. You can register to attend here.

On topic

In this section of AIJA Matters, we curate highlights of recent judicial administration news and insights from local and global sources.

Government Response to ALRC Judicial Impartiality Recommendations
You can watch the Attorney-General’s response to the ALRC’s Without Fear or Favour Report on this recorded webinar.

National Pro Bono Target report released
In September, the Australian Pro Bono Centre released its 15th annual report. It shared the encouraging news that there was an increase in the total number of target signatories (now 280) and that the total amount of pro bono hours was up (645,509 hours, the equivalent of the annual effort of 359 FTE lawyers). You can read a copy of the report here.

New ALRC Inquiry into Religious Educational Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws
On 4 November 2022, the ALRC received Terms of Reference from the Attorney-General of Australia  to consider reforms to the way federal anti-discrimination laws apply to religious educational institutions. The Government has appointed NSW Supreme Court Judge, the Hon Justice Stephen Rothman AM, as a part-time Commissioner for the Inquiry. You can read the Inquiry terms of reference here.

Court Services Victoria launches caseload dashboard
In a first for the Victorian courts and VCAT, caseload data is now readily available through an online dashboard. The data is now accessible at any time for all stakeholders, updated quarterly and published in an easy-to-view format. This initiative is another way in which the Victorian courts and VCAT are increasing their transparency and encouraging greater understanding of their jurisdictions.

Justice reform initiative
On 16 September 2022, the Justice Reform Initiative released a new report showing the NT’s imprisonment rates are “one of the highest in the world and more than four times the Australian average”. The Justice Reform Initiative, which includes preeminent judicial figures, “is calling on the NT Government to redirect its focus to invest in policies and programs that are proven to deliver better outcomes in terms of community safety.” You can read more about the report here or access a copy of the full Jailing is Failing report here.

Intergenerational online session on judicial integrity
To celebrate International Youth Day 2022, the UNODC Global Judicial Integrity Network and the UNODC Global Resource Initiative on Anti-Corruption Education and Youth Empowerment (GRACE) hosted an online event called Intergenerational Learning: Educating Young People on Judicial Integrity and Countering Corruption in the Judiciary. You can view a recording of the session here.

The UNODC Women in Justice/for Justice campaign 
The UN has launched its Women in Justice/for Justice campaign, which is promoting investing in women’s advancement and women justice leaders to “ensure that justice is better served and that women and all members of our societies are met with fairness and equality before the law, for the benefit of all.” You can visit the campaign website here.