BENDIGO TAFE’s City Campus has been identified as the preferred site for new law courts for Bendigo.
Court Services Victoria is in negotiations to use a portion of the McCrae Street campus for a 10 courtroom facility by mid-2022, complete with mediation suites, interview rooms and safe waiting areas.
The move would see legal services leave the Bendigo Law Courts on Pall Mall for the first time in more than 120 years. A future use of the circa-1896 court building is also under negotiation.
The Bendigo legal community has pushed for new court facilities for years, raising safety and logistics concerns associated with the current site.
The state government gave Court Services Victoria $3.9 million in the last State Budget to development a business case for the improvement of the Bendigo Law Courts. The business case will now be taken to the state government to lobby for funding in this year’s budget.
The TAFE site is yet to be confirmed, but it is the preferred option for the Bendigo legal fraternity. The only other option is to further develop the current site.
Supreme Court Justice Andrew Keogh discussed the plans during his address at the opening of the legal year in the Bendigo Law Courts on Monday.
Justice Keogh said the preferred site had been chosen and negotiations were continuing.
He said it was a badly needed upgrade for the Bendigo community.
“Although the Bendigo courthouse is one of the most historic and beautiful buildings in Victoria, the present court facilities have not for decades met the needs for local court services and the Bendigo community,” Justice Keogh said.
“In the event the TAFE site is selected, the future use of the historic first court in which we now sit will be a high priority issue to be addressed by court services and the Supreme Court of Victoria together with third parties in Bendigo.
“Going forward, a business case will be presented with the aim of funding for redevelopment being allocated. If funding is achieved, the estimated completion date for the new court facility is mid-2022, perhaps earlier.”
He congratulated the Bendigo community for its work in both coping with the 19th century facilities, and its advocacy in pushing for an improvement.
Specific details of the plans at the TAFE site and a funding estimate are yet to be released.
Bendigo Kangan Institute is in the process of completing the $17.7 health and community centre of excellence at the McCrae Street campus. The new court building would occupy a different portion of the campus.
Bendigo Law Association president Tom Wolff said the current court building was not designed for the administration of justice this century, or last century, but the century before that.
“We look forward to the progress of the new court buildings… with facilities that will meet the needs for the next 50 or so years,” he said.
Future plans for Bendigo TAFE’s City Campus are currently being developed as part of the City of Greater Bendigo’s Plan Greater Bendigo, which is investigating future infrastructure projects for the city.
Bendigo TAFE chief executive officer Trevor Schwenke said no decision had been made at this stage.
“While the Bendigo Law Courts, through Court Services Victoria, have expressed an interest in the possible redevelopment plans of our city campus, as yet, no options or partners have been confirmed,” he said.