January 24, 2017 WMBB fought the law – and got away with it!

If you wanted to be a solicitor in the future, would you think it wise to pick a fight with the Chief Magistrate… in his courtroom?

Because that’s exactly what one of our intrepid students, Leroy, did when we went to see how justice operates at the Downing Centre, Sydney.

As we sat in Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson’s courtroom, there was a break in proceedings and he asked the students what they planned to do in the future – as well as passing on some interesting advice about the law, what it means and how we can all raise up our community by forging a positive path.

Reasonable minds may differ

Leroy began by saying he was from Kempsey, and that the Chief Magistrate had probably never heard of it. Henson replied that he did know Kempsey, and that he’d grown up in Wollongong, which has better beaches.

“Obviously you’ve never seen South West Rocks or Crescent Head,” Leroy shot back, while we sat in shaken awe.

Later, as we fended off ibises in Hyde Park over lunch, A•STAR asked Leroy about it.

“Honestly, I didn’t think he’d know Kempsey existed!” he said. “And then when he said Wollongong had a better beach, instantly I said he was wrong – in a very sly way. The fact he reacted, knowing both South West Rocks and Crescent Head… I was shocked. It was good.”

No doubt this interchange can only help Leroy in his many, many future plans (including learning three languages, studying commerce, practising law both here and overseas, and helping people wherever possible).



What else happened?

It wasn’t all legal squabbling, of course. The Local Court of NSW is the biggest, busiest and most efficient court in Australia, with 137 magistrates (plus another 30 acting magistrates to help out), 149 locations across the state and 90 per cent of all the legal cases in NSW heard here.

Basically, they’re very busy, but not too busy to field some questions from the legal eagles of tomorrow.

“We sat in with Deputy Chief Magistrate Chris O’Brien and Jo Selfe [a Ngara Yura Project Officer], and they gave a little Q&A session about what they do – their roles, what it’s like to be a magistrate and to work with Indigenous affairs,” said Damon from Townsville.

“The most surprising thing from today was probably how everything goes down inside a court building. I’ve never been inside one before so I didn’t really know the exact proceedings. It was really good to feel what it’s like to be a lawyer or magistrate. Just to be in the room.”

In addition to discussing the independence of the judiciary and how certain issues relate specifically to the Aboriginal community, the pair told us about relevant topics such as Circle Sentencing and the use of Section 10 to give young offenders a second chance. Overall, it was a rewarding experience for Damon, who has been interested in legal and social issues for a long time.

“I really like politics and stuff like that, so I like to keep up with the news,” he said. “I’m very aware of those kind of things. I guess that kind of sprouted from when I was younger – I used to read encyclopaedias and atlases. I like to do trivia and learn general knowledge things, which really interests and engages me. That’s sprouted my interests today and what I want to do now.”

After his trip to court, Damon’s keen to make it his life’s work. Well, his future study at least.

“I hope to continue my studies and go onto uni to study a combined degree, Arts/Law, majoring in International Relations, Global Studies. Anything like that.”

Shane Cubis
is a contributor to A•STAR