Why does the Department of the Attorney General allow the Francis Burt Law Education Programme and the Old Court House Law Museum to provide services from the Old Court House?
Allowing the Law Society of Western Australia to provide both services from the Old Court House aligns strongly with the Department’s mission statement to provide high quality and accessible justice, legal, registry, guardianship and trustee services to meet the needs of the community and the Western Australian Government. The services delivered at the Old Court House raise community awareness about the justice and legal system in particular.
The combination of services at the Old Court House, including the Programme, Museum and Mock Trial Competition provides opportunities for the wider community, including the many students who attend, to understand the rule of law, the background to our legal system, and how courts work in today’s society.
What do the Programme, the Museum and Mock Trial competition contribute to community legal education and/or access to justice in WA?
The Programme and Mock Trial competition both focus on educating school groups and contribute immensely to community education, particularly of young people, through the provision of programmes and resources mapped to the WA curriculum. Vocational college groups and community groups also regularly engage with the Programme, which demonstrates its broad reach. A greater understanding of the justice system contributes to greater legal education and access to justice.
It is important to note that access to justice extends beyond the provision of legal services to those in the community who may not have the financial resources to do so. Access to justice also includes raising community awareness and understanding of the law, the legal system, and legal issues in WA. The Law Society’s Education and Community Services certainly work towards achieving that goal as reflected in the goals of the Programme and the Museum:
The Programme: Seeks to advance the Western Australian community’s understanding of the law, legal principles and the court system. The Programme operates on the principle that all people must understand the law and the legal system, which affects their daily lives.
Museum: To connect people to the law of Western Australia and to inspire reflective discussion.
The Mock Trial Competition: Gives secondary school students the opportunity to experience the atmosphere and the sense of formal proceedings inside a genuine courtroom. These kinds of experiences may prove to be formative for young people, allowing them to imagine a future for themselves in that social context, and helping them to set some career goals for themselves. The competition also enables students to meet and form relationships with practising lawyers in our community. They can ask questions and begin to establish a pathway into the world of legal professionals.
What in your opinion is the value of the Programme, the Museum and Mock Trial Competition contribute to the Law Society, its members and the wider community?
The Department understands each service provides significant value to the Law Society, its members and the wider community in numerous ways. These include the level of engagement with the community, which has broadened in recent years, and participant feedback on each service is very positive, with the majority of respondents rating the service as very good or excellent. It is important to note that each of these services in their own way raises community awareness and understanding of the law, the legal system, legal issues and the role of the legal profession.
In conclusion, learning to communicate through proper channels is a key skill in society. The Mock Trial Competition requires students to frame their arguments in appropriate and acceptable terms. They must adopt the standard protocols used in the courtroom. This enables them to develop an understanding that the formal codes of behaviour and language help to protect the integrity of the hearings, and, in turn, the rights of citizens.