A group of young family court employees have won an award for their work to instigate new and innovative court operations.
The Courts Young Employees Advisory Group Initiative (YEAG), launched in 2008, won the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration’s (AIJA) 2011 Award for Excellence in Judicial Administration.
Family Court CEO Richard Foster set up YEAG, which comprises Family Court employees aged under 27, in response to his experience at a court innovation centre in New York.
Foster had heard of "workplace wars" between Baby Boomers and Generation X workers, but his visit to New York reminded him why such a war was lacking between staffers in many Australian courts: the voice of Gen Y wasn't being heard.
Foster said his visit to New York's Centre for Court Innovation - and experience watching the "youthful enthusiasm" of a group of 15 to18 year olds suggesting new ideas for the justice system - reminded him that Australian courts were dominated by middle-aged people possibly out of touch with the thinking of younger people.
With only one Family Court employee aged under 21, Foster re-defined "young" as under 27 years of age, and called for volunteers to be selected for 12-month membership in YEAG.
Members attend several CEO Management Advisory Group meetings as observers, are mentored by senior executives, and make presentations on their key projects to benefit the court's clients and staff.
YEAG was nominated for the AIJA award because it was a unique initiative and a first for Australian courts.
YEAG projects include increasing staff awareness and knowledge of the Commonwealth Courts Portal and eFiling to encourage active promotion of the Portal to clients and the legal profession; developing a recruitment campaign to attract young people wishing to embark on a career with the courts; researching particular client groups to help the courts understand their needs; introducing health and environment initiatives for staff, such as the 10,000 steps YEAG challenge; and improving internal communication through the reduction of email traffic.
The 10,000 steps challenge attracted more than 500 staff, including judges, in 72 teams competing to complete the biggest number of steps per day.