The Hon Wayne Martin AC, Chief Justice of Western Australia

The Hon Chief Justice Wayne Martin ACIn order to function effectively, courts must be accepted and supported by the communities they serve. It is therefore vital that citizens have a reasonable understanding of the judicial system and its characteristics. A very good way of increasing levels of understanding is through the education programmes delivered by the Francis Burt Law Education Programme.

By increasing community understanding of the courts and the judicial process, the Programme enhances respect for the rule of law and acceptance of the authority of the courts, while at the same time improving the capacity of people who lack the resources to obtain legal representation to participate effectively in legal proceedings.

The programmes provided are also of considerable value to the legal profession, by enhancing the community’s understanding of, and respect for, the services which members of that profession, including members of the Law Society, provide.

His Honour Chief Judge Kevin Sleight, District Court of Western Australia

The District Court of Western Australia is very supportive of the Francis Burt Law Education Programme.  The Programme performs an important task of supporting schools instructing students on the fundamentals of our legal system, including the role of the courts within the concept of the rule of law. The importance of students being educated about the legal system (an essential part of a democratic society) was explained by Sir Francis Burt in a short address in 1987:

“When I joined the Air Force to fly aeroplanes it seemed to assume without question that I should be taught the basic principle of aero-dynamics.  —  [T]hen I was taught how to fly the thing —- so at the end of the day the number of landings would be equal to the number of take-offs.  —  In the same way it would seem to me —- obvious that if a democracy is to be a system of government, ultimately resting upon the ordinary men and women living within it — then they should know how it works and how to work it.”

As a part of this educational process, the Programme provides an important opportunity for students to visit the courts, have the processes of the courts explained to them and, on occasions, to be addressed by one of the judges.

The District Court congratulates the Law Society on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Francis Burt Law Education Programme and wishes it every success in the future.

Chief Magistrate Steven Heath, Magistrates Court of Western Australia

The Magistrates Court is always very happy to have the Francis Burt Law Education Programme lead community legal education programmes through the Court.

Many people within the community will never have cause to enter a Court. Without the opportunity to visit they are left with the misguided impression that what is shown on television is how Courts function.

Others may need to attend Court at some point in their lives and an understanding of the different Courts and how they operate will alleviate some of the inevitable anxiety and assist them in accessing the appropriate advice and support.

Department of the Attorney General

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.

Teachers and Students

Tim Poga, Head of Social Sciences Learning Area, Mercedes College

What is your favourite Francis Burt Law Education Programme activity or resource or programme? Why?

My favourite resource would be the Sentencing in Western Australia – Comparative Study as it immerses secondary students into the principles behind the Sentencing Act WA (1995) in an engaging and relevant way. This activity provokes really interesting questions from students which always leads to further learning and discussion.

What does the Programme contribute to community legal education and/or access to justice in WA?

The Programme and its staff allow educators such as myself to tap into high quality activities, resources and experiences which a classroom teacher like myself does not have the time or expertise to create. Our politics and law topics at Mercedes College would not be as engaging and enjoyable for students if we weren’t able to access the program and some of the very specific resources which come with it.

What in your opinion is the value of the Programme to the Law Society, its members and the wider community?

I think the Programme gives the Law Society a high quality community legal resource centre and service it can be proud of, which reflects the skills and work of its members and the legal profession. It gives the community of Western Australia a means to tap into legal education and experiences which are relevant to the people of our state.

Lisa Reynders, Acting Head of Humanities, Sacred Heart College

What is your favourite Francis Burt Law Education Programme activity or resource or programme? Why?

A favourite activity of our students at Sacred Heart College, Sorrento when they visit the Programme, is the opportunity to participate in a scripted mock trial. Students assume the role of various court officials as they partake in a criminal trial scenario.

As they work through an authentic experience of the processes and etiquette of the courtroom, the students are able to develop a richer understanding of their studies of the Western Australian Curriculum.  The programme also encourages students to become active learners as they engage with the facts of the case as well as the rules of evidence. Assuming the roles of court personnel also helps students immerse themselves in the legal process in a creative way. For those students selected to be judges, this further adds to the impact of their experience making this one of their favourite Programme activities.

What does the Programme contribute to community legal education and/or access to justice in WA?

One of the tangible benefits of the programme is that students can separate any misconceptions of the American legal system. Although not as fast paced and energetic as Law and Order or Suits the students contextual understanding of the operation of a courtroom, provides a rich environment for those students interested in pursing a future career in legal studies. The symbolism and historical context of The Old Court House also provides students with an appreciation of the legal system and the importance of our British legal history.

Led by highly skilled, knowledgeable and professional presenters, students are invited to ask questions, probe the facts of the case, and assist in dispelling misconceptions of the law in a safe and encouraging manner.

What in your opinion is the value of the Programme to the Law Society, its members and the wider community?

Overall, the Programme offers more than a simulated courtroom session to our students. Forever etched in their minds is an experience that could never be gleaned from a classroom or textbook alone, or alas a season of Rake. If the Western Australian legal system hopes to renew its ranks then programmes like this are sure to engage a new generation of keen or eager students passionate about our jurisprudence system.

Stephen Pountney, Deputy Principal, Ashdale Secondary College

What is your favourite activity, resource or programme? Why?

Ashdale Secondary College has been involving students from a range of age groups with the Programme for several years now, and there are many aspects of the programme that are extremely useful and enjoyable. For younger students, participation in court role plays, both in the Old Court House museum and in school through utilising online resources, has helped to bring the learning to life, whereas for older students the opportunities to witness the procedures of real court cases has significantly aided their understanding of legal theory.

What does the Programme contribute to community legal education and/or access to justice in WA?

The Programme takes learning beyond the classroom and provides students with opportunities that would be difficult to provide in a school setting alone. In addition to the multitude of experiential learning the Programme continues to develop its online bank of resources for use by schools, which, in addition to Civics & Citizenship education in schools, contributes to the ongoing development of legal understanding in society.

What in your opinion is the value of the Programme to the Law Society, its members and the wider community?

My ongoing experiences with the Programme have demonstrated that it is highly valuable programme in supporting and providing both fundamental and enrichment legal education to students across the state of Western Australia. Its role is highly appreciated by educators throughout the state and its programmes are widely utilised.

Dr Bill Allen, Senior Lecturer, Education Faculty, Edith Cowan University

What is one of your most significant experiences on or observing a tour or programme?

An excursion to the Francis Burt Law Education Programme is one of the highlights of the year for Education students training to be HASS teachers, and this year nearly 70 students have enjoyed one.

The highlight would always be the visits to the two different courts. For many, it is their first visit to a Law Court – thank goodness, perhaps – so actually seeing the court processes at work, and their realities are very important. As Dean always points out, the actualities of court are very different to the overly-dramatised processes seen on TV or in the movies. What is always surprising is how the students quickly become engrossed in cases. One incident stands out: it was in the Magistrates Courts when an old man lost his case against the Council for having sand and other materials on the pavement outside his house. The fine of several thousand dollars and similar payment of costs had a deep impact and I am sure the case will be recounted in several classrooms in schools in the future.

What does the Programme contribute to community legal education and/or access to justice in WA?

The Programme plays an enormous part in raising awareness of legal processes in WA. In our case, it is preparing teachers who do not study any legal education to teach the subject better in HASS classes. In doing so, students become more aware of, and can teach students, their rights before the law –as Dean points out “Innocent until proven guilty”. The Curriculum links have been painstakingly prepared and are an excellent resource.

What in your opinion is the value of the Programme to the Law Society, its members and the wider community?

Teachers become aware of the other services the Law Society provides to schools, such as lawyers for Mock Trials and to talk to classes. The Programme is a great flagship for the Law Society and hopefully one longer term outcome is that potential lawyers are attracted to the profession.

Paul Manning, Teacher in Charge, Humanities and Social Sciences, York District High School

As an experienced educator, I feel that the services provided by the Programme are an invaluable tool supporting work done in the classroom in the Humanities learning area. Over the past five or six years, students here at York District High School have been involved in case re-enactment in the Old Court House, empty court activity and viewing of a live court case.

Not only does this experience reinforce class taught concepts but it provides a “real” feel for Law that cannot be gained in the classroom and has undoubtedly triggered many students to consider pursuing a career in Law.

The highlight of our Year 10 course is the trip to Perth to participate in this program. The low cost – high impact activities are an excellent engagement and participatory tool for students of all abilities. These activities are well supported by the excellent resources that are available online to reinforce the excursion for all years in the Secondary curriculum.

The Old Court House re-enactment is a hit with all the students. Dressing up in wigs and gowns and role playing gets all involved, even students who in the classroom are usually disengaged. Having photos taken of the day is an excellent idea as they usually wind up in yearbooks and are great mementos of the school year.

The empty courthouse role play is good for reinforcing work on the Court structure. Visualising a court in session is not nearly as good as actually being in one. This helps students learn about the who’s who in court cases.

The big hit though is the experience of being able to view a live case. The chat and conversation afterwards help stimulate class room work and engages students of all abilities. It provides an excellent link to class taught concepts.

Over the years, the Programme has provided an excellent service to schools that I hope continues for many years to come.

Jeneva Gors, Year 10 Student, York District High School

On Monday, 5 December, 22 of York District High School’s best and brightest Year 10 students made the 1 ½ hour journey from York into Perth City to visit the Law Courts. Accompanied by teachers, Mr Paul Manning and Mr Jordan Truscott, we acted out a mock trial in the original court building and then we walked up to District Court to watch a real court case.

I think I speak for everyone when I say that we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience of acting out the trial in the historic building, especially when we all got to dress up and try the wigs on (Mr Truscott looked very dapper in his robes). It was a fantastic precursor for watching the real case because we learnt about all the roles inside the court and how the judicial system works.

Following a short walk through the beautiful Supreme Court Gardens, we ventured into the District Court to watch a real case. We walked through the metal detectors (no problems there) and made our way up to the 7th floor. Being country kids, we don’t often get to see multistorey, let alone look out the window of one, so that in itself was spectacle (it was hilarious seeing Mr Manning squirm over being so high up).

We were very privileged to be sitting in on a real murder case. It was very silent in the room, except for the sound of the Defendant’s voice. Proceedings continued for about half an hour before the Judge called a break for lunch. Everyone bowed and left the room.

My personal highlight of the day was seeing the original courthouse building and looking at all the historical items out the back – that was a real treat.

The day was such a fantastic experience and we all enjoyed it very much. All we could do on the way home was talk about how lucky we were to sit in on a real murder trial. We couldn’t believe our luck!