Access to Justice campaign launches in Parramatta
The people of Western Sydney are getting short-changed in the operation of the Justice system by both Federal and State Governments, according to a group of prominent business and community groups in the region.
A new coalition of local Councils, business groups, Universities and legal services has been formed to run the Access to Justice for Western Sydney campaign, which was launched on Monday in Parramatta.
Chair of the Access to Justice Committee, prominent Parramatta lawyer, Geoffrey Roberson of Champion Legal, asserts that the region has been overlooked for too long in the appointment of enough Judges to enable full access to the justice system for local residents.
“We have plenty of Court facilities, plenty of lawyers and barristers here to manage cases, we just need Judges sitting in Parramatta to hear the cases,” says Mr Roberson.
“Both levels of Government have built excellent facilities to service the Western Sydney region in the Justice Precinct in Parramatta. We have over 30 Courts available but only a few Judges, so many of these Court rooms remain empty."
The campaign is seeking the appointment of at least six Supreme Court Judges to be permanently based in Parramatta and the addition of another six Family Court Justices to the Parramatta Family Court.
“We also want the Federal Court to hear cases across all its areas of responsibility here in Western Sydney, making Parramatta a permanent location for the full Federal Court,” says Mr Roberson.
The Lord Mayor of Parramatta, Councillor John Chedid, is a strong supporter of the campaign and calls on both Governments to rectify the situation.
“The number of residents and businesses who are required to travel into the Sydney CBD from Western Sydney to have their matters considered by the Supreme Court or the Federal Court fully justifies the establishment of such jurisdictions in Parramatta serving the needs of this community,” says Councillor Chedid.
The Director of the Western Sydney Division of the NSW Business Chamber David Borger agrees.
“With over 2 million people in the Western Sydney region, representing almost one-third of NSW’s population, there is an overwhelming case for a fully functioning Justice system located in the main centre of the region to service this population’s needs,” says Mr Borger.
“Whether you live in Penrith, Liverpool, St Marys, Blacktown or Mt Druitt, it makes much more sense to have your matters heard in Parramatta rather than the clogged and expensive Sydney CBD.”
Access to Justice in the region where people live and work is a fundamental principle of a democratic society, according to the Dean of the School of Law at the University of Western Sydney, Professor Michael Adams.
“Justice services need to be available close to where people live, to avoid unreasonable costs and isolation from family and support networks,” says Professor Adams.
The business sector is strongly behind the campaign, with the Parramatta Chamber of Commerce and most law firms and accountancy businesses endorsing its objectives. Riad Tayeh, Partner in Accountancy firm deVries Tayeh, expressed the frustration of those who manage business administration, insolvency and liquidation.
“Every little process or step, for a business to be wound up and its debts paid, requires travel into the Sydney CBD," says Mr Tayeh.
"This wastes enormous amounts of time and money for small businesses which could be avoided if the Supreme Court and the Federal Court operated in Parramatta."
The campaign has received the support of Parramatta State MP, Geoff Lee and Federal MP, Julie Owens. Both have committed to raise the issues with their respective Attorneys-General.
“We need the people who live in this region to voice their concern at this situation by demanding their political representatives do something to correct the current imbalance,” says Geoffrey Roberson.
13 August 2013