Burnie Court Complex must be shared

Burnie Magistrates and Supreme Court

*Published in The Advocate on Monday 7th August 2023.

Politics can be pretty frustrating. 

Politicians don’t often go for the obvious, common sense solution. Instead they go round and round in circles, like a dog looking for a ball right under their nose.

And that’s been exactly the case with the Federal Circuit and Family Law Court in Burnie.

The Court was first squeezed out of the Burnie Magistrates Court back in 2021. They found a temporary home in the Burnie Arts and Function Centre - but it was only ever temporary. When the Arts and Function Centre became unavailable earlier this year, there was a flurry of panic.

It’s easy for the Canberra bubble to say ‘just travel to Launceston’. But they don’t realise that for a person travelling from Smithton to Launceston on public transport, it’d be three bus trips and nine hours just to get there. Not to mention the cost. It just wasn’t doable.

I’m glad that we’ve solved this problem for now. The Family Court is back in the Burnie Magistrates Court. But it’s frustrating they ended up exactly where they started and we had this uncertainty to begin with.

This short-term issue has raised a much larger one. There is no long-term plan for the future of the Federal Circuit and Family Law Court in Burnie. And it really baffles me why more hasn’t been done to fix this in the past two years.

The Tasmanian Liberals are building a shiny new Court Complex in Burnie. Everyone assumed the Family Law Court would go in there. They only need space once every four to six weeks.

Except there has never been any agreement between the State and Federal Governments, and the Federal Circuit Court, that the new court complex would be a shared space.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out it just makes sense. Everyone I’ve spoken to - lawyers, judges, council members and people in the community - all agree that a shared space should be the way forward.

The State and Federal Governments, along with the Federal Circuit, need to pick up their socks and work together to make this happen.

The Federal Government will likely need to chip in a bit of cash for an extra court. But it’s a small price to pay for access to justice on the North-West Coast.