GALLERY/VIDEO: Legal Year opening

BENDIGO's legal fraternity say access to justice remains a major barrier for people facing court.

Bendigo Law Association president Luke Docherty said at Monday's opening of the Legal Year ceremony there needed to be more support for those who have fallen through the cracks of Legal Aid funding.

"Probably the greatest challenge in the last 12 months is the changes to legal aid, which is eroding access to justice," he said.

"That affects justice in all areas of assistance."

Mr Docherty said the opening of the year ceremony was a day to highlight the cooperation of different legal groups, but also a time to look at challenges of the year ahead. 

"It's a chance to issue a bit of a rallying cry to fight these legal aid funding cuts," he said.

"The local profession should meet that challenge head on to avoid the system being irrevocably damaged."

The ceremony was opened by Supreme Court Justice Cameron Macaulay, who was joined by representatives from all areas of the judicial system, as well as the City of Greater Bendigo.

A church service at Sacred Heart Cathedral marked the beginning of the official proceedings.

Sergeant David Somerton said it was a formal way to celebrate the coming together of different groups and the importance that each part of the justice system has to play.

"They rely on each one working well for the other to work well," he said.

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Sergeant Somerton said the common goal for everyone involved in the legal fraternity was to promote a fair system.

"All people involved in the administration of justice deal with people's suffering at one point or another," he said.

"One thing is certain - if we all strive to ease the suffering as much as we can our community will be a fairer one."

Sergeant Somerton said one of the biggest opportunities for Bendigo in the next 12 months would be the development of a Justice Centre at the old Bull Street Police Station.

He said it would improve the "cramped conditions" of the lawcourts.

"I'm confident it will be business as usual once that's open."

James Mighell SC, praised the work of the Bendigo court staff and said all members of the Bar Association enjoyed visiting for cases.

"It's a beautiful, but at times challenging building," he said.

Construction of the new Justice Centre is expected to be complete by the end of 2014.

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