Queensland’s most senior judge has lamented the Queensland Government’s decision to defund a dedicated court support service “comprised largely of volunteers” who assist victims, witnesses, family, friends and accused criminals.
Chief Justice Helen Bowskill recently extended her appreciation for the hard work of the Court Network group and the valuable support that staff and volunteers have provided to the courts across the state over the past 14 years.
The Chief Justice, in the Supreme Court of Queensland’s 2021-22 Annual Report, singled out Court Network for special mention and remarked on the failure of the State Government to renew its funding.
Court Network says that last year it assisted 180,000 people required to attend courts across Queensland and Victoria via 450 trained volunteers providing non-legal support and information about community legal services and domestic and family violence services, along with support for victims of crime and people with mental health issues.
According to its website: “Court Network is a front-line community organisation that supports people in accessing the court system. Our vision – To provide the community with volunteers who stand beside, empower and instil confidence in all court users. Our mission – To provide support, information and referral to people attending court and to advocate for the needs of all court users.”
Chief Justice Bowskill, in the report tabled in Parliament on 16 December, said: “The Government funding for this valuable and beneficial service was, unfortunately, not renewed.
“Court Network is a service comprised largely of volunteers, which worked in the courthouses occupied by the Supreme Court in Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns.
“The Network operated a Victim Support Unit; but it also provided other valuable services. In all three courthouses, volunteers provided a concierge role, assisting entrants with directions and basic information.
“Other volunteers supported people attending court, including witnesses, unrepresented parties and defendants’ families. They provided information about how the courts operate and, in general terms, what to expect.”
Similar services were provided to the District and Magistrates Courts and the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
“The Court records its very grateful thanks for the work of the volunteers and paid staff of Court Network, over the 14 years that their services were provided to the Court, and to court users,” the Chief Justice wrote.