Page 817 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 6 April 2022
In February this year I was pleased to advise that, following a rigorous recruitment campaign, the government appointed the ACT’s first dedicated coroner, esteemed ACT lawyer Mr Ken Archer, who commenced in this role on 15 March. Mr Archer will be supported by additional resourcing, also provided to the Coroner’s Court through the 2021-22 ACT budget, and the family liaison officer, a 2020-21 budget-funded role which is critical in providing support to families and friends of loved ones who have passed, as they progress through the coronial system. I am delighted that a lawyer of Mr Archer’s calibre will lead the ACT Coroner’s Court into a new era, bringing a more restorative approach to the coronial process, making it more timely, inclusive and trauma informed for bereaved families and friends involved in inquests.
However, this government’s commitment in this space does not end there. To make the coronial process more timely, inclusive and sensitive to the needs of grieving families, and as a corollary to this government’s parliamentary and governing agreement commitment, the government also agreed to funding in the 2021-22 budget midyear review to engage an independent facilitator to conduct a restorative coronial reform process and identify meaningful reform opportunities to the coronial process, including reforms to the ACT Coroner’s Court. The government looks forward to working with the independent facilitator and other key stakeholders to ultimately bring about change to the ACT coronial system.
This government’s support for efficient court operations can also be demonstrated through its commitment to progress courts law reform, such as the Courts and Other Justice Legislation Amendment Act 2021 passed by the Legislative Assembly in June last year. The act made both technical and more substantive amendments to improve access to justice and ensure the efficient operation of the ACT courts and tribunals. Each year, my directorate, the Justice and Community Safety Directorate, works closely with the courts to identify legislative opportunities to promote efficiencies both within the courts and by users of the court, and will typically progress this legislative reform in the next calendar year.
The government’s commitment to the operations of the courts has also been demonstrated through funding provided through the public-private partnership contract signed with Juris Partnership in October 2015 towards the new state-of-the-art law courts facility, which was completed in 2020. For me, one of the very important elements of this project is that the building respects and celebrates the heritage of the existing Supreme Court building, preserving its most iconic features, such as the marble facade, the oriental atrium and the golden commonwealth coat of arms, while now accommodating the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court, Magistrates Court and Childrens Court in the new four-storey link building.
Importantly, the new building provides enhanced justice support through additional courtrooms, hearing rooms, mediation suites, remote witness facilities, a combined custodial facility and updated jury deliberation rooms. The building has achieved a five-star green energy rating, with no shortage of natural light through the complex, an integrated heating and cooling plant arrangement and improved lighting systems which contribute to the energy efficiency of the new precinct. It is evident that the