The body responsible for the state’s court services has identified the redevelopment of the Bendigo Law Courts as a priority.
Court Services Victoria yesterday launched its 15-year strategic asset plan, which Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Warren described as a “blueprint for investment”.
“Significant safety and fit-for-purpose issues” earned Bendigo’s courts the dubious honour of being recommended as an “immediate priority” for redevelopment, alongside Werribee Law Courts.
The “unprecedented” plan emphasises the importance of Bendigo’s facilities as a regional headquarter court.
“It presents a cohesive, interconnected model across the state to guide investment to resolve the infrastructure issues facing Victoria’s court and tribunal buildings,” Chief Justice Warren said.
In Victoria, only 16 per cent of court buildings meet infrastructure benchmarks.
Court Services Victoria operating officer Brian Stevenson said the state’s courts were not equipped to meet the forecast growth in population and demand.
“Our courts are beset by ageing infrastructure, with some buildings not equipped to adequately deliver modern court services,” he said.
He said the study had highlighted “dramatic disparities in the quality of court infrastructure across Victoria.”
“The Plan will enable prioritisation of investment over the next 15 years, with solutions ranging from major developments through to delivery of specialist services, maintenance and upgrade works,” Mr Stevenson said.
The recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence have influenced the strategy, which identified the need for court infrastructure to better protect victims.
Improvements in court safety, security and sustainability, modern information technology systems, and addressing the “overall poor condition of court infrastructure” are also flagged.
Bendigo Law Association president Jennifer Digby said the legal community was thrilled Court Services Victoria had recognised the urgent need for the city’s law courts to be redeveloped.
“These are precisely the issues we have been agitating for for quite some time,” she said.
During a ceremony formally opening the legal year in Bendigo last week, Justice Jack Forrest was confident the city’s courts would be included in the plan and hopeful its release would lead to a business case being formulated.