The opening of the Bendigo Law Courts represents a new chapter for the region that will deliver the safe, accessible and responsive justice services locals deserve, says Premier Daniel Andrews.
Mr Andrews and Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes were on Dja Dja Wurrung land on Friday to officially open the $152 million after more than five years under construction.
The five-level building boasts nine courtrooms, two hearing rooms, meditation suites and remote witness facilities, making it one of the state’s largest regional court hubs.
Along with the Magistrates’ Court, Children’s Court of Victoria and VCAT, it will also house the Koori Court and Specialist Family Violence Court.
The funding also included support for the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) to open their first office in Bendigo, which launched on the same day, and will offer a criminal law, Aboriginal families and civil and human rights law practice.
‘This is a really important day, a proud day,' Mr Andrews said.
'Courts are not just for Melbourne, they’re for regional Victoria and Bendigo is at the centre of that.'
‘People who work in the justice system now have the best facilities to do their job well, and those who are drawn into the justice system, no matter what side of the argument they're on, [they’ve] got the very best, safest physical facilities.’
'Access to justice is so important and again, the more investments we can make in a proud community like Bendigo, with a such a rich history, we set Bendigo up for an even stronger future.'
The opening reception for the law courts was attended by Victoria Legal Aid representatives including Chief Operating Officer Cameron Hume, Regions and Service Delivery Executive Director Peter Noble and Bendigo Deputy Managing Lawyer Anna Howard.
‘It’s incredibly exciting to see this court complex officially up and running after many years of planning and construction, and to begin to reap the benefits of these co-located services,’ Ms Howard said.
‘Not only will it benefit clients, but also our staff, who have been working between three old buildings that were no longer fit for purpose and can spend less time moving to and from courts.’
The precinct will also host the County Court, Supreme Court and Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, on a circuit basis.
Our staff will also be able to use dedicated offices and interview rooms, and enjoy the latest technology and infrastructure which has been integrated throughout courtrooms, staff work areas and public spaces.
Leading the way with people-centred design
One of the building’s key features is the wedge-tailed eagle artwork that spans the upper stories of its striking copper facade.
Almost nine metres tall and 15 metres wide, it was designed by local artist Racquel Kerr, a Dja Dja Wurrung and Boon Wurrung woman, and represents Bunjil, the creator being in animal form.
'Not only is it a centrepiece for Bendigo, it really represents a calm, protective environment for many of our court users,' Ms Symes said.
'We can come up with the policies, we can come up with the collaborations, but to have a facility where people feel safe, respected and culturally seen, is a fantastic asset and something we really want to replicate across the state.'
Project builders said collaboration with the Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Owners informed various elements of their design, setting the scene for a culturally sensitive and inclusive court for community members.
The court hub includes a courtyard that has been paved to symbolise a smoking ceremony and landscaped with the flora and fauna native to Dja Dja Wurrung country.
The Premier said the way the Bendigo Law Courts had been developed spoke 'really powerfully to recognition and self-determination and respect for our First Nations peoples'.
Acknowledging that clients visiting the courts will often be under stress, great care has been taken to design an inviting and therapeutic through the expansive use of timber and the selection of calming colours for the statement ceramic wall.
There are digital kiosks and multimedia displays to help court users navigate the building.
The Bendigo Law Courts, which formally commenced operating on Monday 27 February, is also designed for zero net carbon emissions.
Read more about the Bendigo Law Courts
Reviewed 28 February 2023