The judicial system depends upon public confidence in what it does to effectively function, the Chief Justice said yesterday.
A new exhibition highlighting the function of the High Court would reignite public faith in the justice system, he said.
In a speech at the relaunch of the National Archives Exhibition on the High Court, Chief Justice Robert French said the exhibition redirects attention to four prominent decisions among the many that have been made since federation.
Chief Justice French said those decisions have identified the content and delineated the limits of governmental power as well as dealing with matters arising under the common law of Australia and the statutes of the Commonwealth and the states.
The four decisions in the exhibition include the Engineers Case, the Communist Party Case, the Tasmanian Dams Case and, in the updated exhibition, the Workchoices Case, the Chief Justice said.
But in highlighting the various cases, he said, "this exhibition, as part of the Gallery, contributes to a sense of national self-awareness and identity".
"People may derive from the exhibition and similar displays an understanding of the origins of our judicial system and of the way in which it helps both to define the limits of public power, and to maintain the rule of law.
"To that extent the vital infrastructure of our representative democracy is strengthened," he said.
The Chief Justice noted that the judicial system has been called the weakest branch of government. "It depends very much for its effective functioning upon public confidence in what it does."
Public confidence requires public understanding; and public understanding is achieved by education of the kind that this exhibition provides.