On Tuesday 7 July 2020, the President of the Children’s Court, her Honour Judge Amanda Chambers was In Conversation with Melissa Stead, Chair of the Children’s Court Bar Association. Judge Chambers spoke of some difficult decisions the Court needed to take to safeguard the community during COVID while maintaining the ability to step in and protect children in need.
In light of the Court’s obligation to the health and safety of all court users, the Court revised its protocols to accommodate remote hearings and also prioritised matters relating to children on remand. The fast-track remand court enabled children to appear remotely.
Judge Chambers said that members of the Victorian Bar have been particularly responsive and willing to assist in special mentions for regional court hearings. The Children’s Court is currently working through the regional backlog by identifying cases that can be heard remotely.
When considering revised protocols for remote hearings, the Court considered how to facilitate hearings for vulnerable parties and witnesses. For example, a recent remote hearing was conducted seamlessly by ensuring that interpreters were made available not only to two parties in different prisons, but also to other participants in the same hearing.
Judge Chambers said the Family Drug Treatment Court is continuing to operate and is expanding from Broadmeadows to Shepparton. Judge Chambers asked practitioners to consider their clients’ eligibility for that program because evaluations have shown that children are 2.5 times more likely to reunite with parents through this program when compared to mainstream court processes.
The evaluation of Marram-Ngala Ganbu (a hearing day at in the Family Division of the Broadmeadows Children’s Court via a Koori-led process) found that Koori families had a voice in the process and participated in Court decisions regarding their own families, which in turn leads to better compliance with Aboriginal placement principles and development of culturally appropriate plans for their children.
Participants also had an opportunity to ask Judge Chambers questions, and we would like to thank Beth Warnock for moderating those questions.
The “In Conversation” series is a new initiative by the Victorian Bar intended to inform members about current and topical issues, events and trends directly affecting them. This series will feature guest speakers from the legal profession who will share their experience and expertise.
If you missed the webinar, you can watch the recording here.
Elizabeth Gray on +61 401 561 554 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org