The 2019–20 NSW budget, announced earlier this week, includes $9 million in 2019–20 (as part of an $18 million project) to refurbish and upgrade the Queanbeyan Court House as well as funding to upgrade and refurbish court houses at Orange ($1.2 million), Bathurst ($1 million) and Griffith ($1.2 million).
The additional funding, Law Society of NSW president Elizabeth Espinosa noted, will provide upgrades for regional courts, support for children impacted by homicide and the establishment of an ageing and disability commissioner.
“The Law Society is pleased to see the NSW government’s commitment to ensure that court facilities meet the needs of the community, particularly in regional and rural areas,” she said.
“People accessing our court system are some of the most vulnerable in our state, including victims of family and domestic violence, and we need to ensure they feel safe and supported when they attend court, that their privacy is protected and that those working to assist them, including solicitors and court support workers, have access to appropriately resourced court facilities.”
Members of the legal profession in the Queanbeyan, Bathurst and Orange regions “will welcome these much-needed upgrades”, Ms Espinosa said.
She also hailed the state government’s $3.3 million commitment “to establish the world’s first dedicated residential trauma centre for children who have lost a loved one to homicide”. The proposed centre, “Grace’s Place”, is to be named in honour of Grace Lynch — the mother of Anita Cobby (a nurse from western Sydney who was murdered in the late 1980s) — and will be built at Doonside in Sydney’s west and be managed by the Homicide Victims Support Group.
“We welcome the Attorney-General’s commitment to providing a safe and supportive environment for those young children who have to deal with the long-lasting trauma of losing a family member to homicide,” Ms Espinosa said.
“Losing a family member is particularly traumatic for a young person, and this is further compounded when that loved one is the victim of a homicide. We need to do all we can to support them on their long and difficult road to recovery. A dedicated residential unit will play an important role in their recovery, and I hope this concept will be expanded to other areas of the state.”
Elsewhere, she said it was “pleasing” to see the NSW government following through on its commitment to establish an ageing and disability commissioner, with $13.9 million being allocated over four years to establish such a commissioner.
“The Law Society of NSW has been advocating strongly for measures that will safeguard the rights and wellbeing of older people and people with disabilities,” she said.
“We are particularly pleased that the new ageing and disability commissioner will have strong powers to investigate allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation against the elderly and people with disabilities.”