50 years of justice at the District Court of Western Australia

News story
The legal community marked 50 years of the District Court of Western Australia on Saturday night with a gala dinner organised by the Law Society of WA.

The legal community has recognised the eminent role of the District Court of Western Australia with a celebration of its 50th anniversary.

A gala dinner hosted by the Law Society of Western Australia to mark the milestone had been postponed for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

District Court Chief Judge Julie Wager spoke on behalf of the Court at the February 27 event, also attended by her immediate predecessor, Judge Kevin Sleight.

Since its founding in 1970 with four judges in response to a growing population, the District Court has played a crucial role in the State's justice system.

Now with 32 judges, the court conducts hundreds of trials each year across the breadth of Western Australia.

"It's occupied that middle range section of the criminal world, shall we say, between the Supreme Court and the Magistrates' Court and that has been growing like nothing else," former Chief Judge Kevin Hammond says in a video commemorating the anniversary.

"It's where the majority of work lies – and the District Court has concentrated on that area," he says.

Another former Chief Judge, Antoinette Kennedy, became the State's first woman judge when she joined the District Court in 1985.

"It was seven years before another woman was appointed, and then more women were appointed, and it simply changes the atmosphere," Her Honour says.

It was during her term as Chief Judge that the District Court building was planned and constructed, opening in 2008.

"The struggle to get the building, then to get it called the District Court was a substantial struggle."

Judges interviewed agreed that one constant in the Court's history has been the quality of the personnel.

"The Court is a very collegiate one and I'm very fortunate that so many very wise and experienced judges have been so willing to assist and listen and share their knowledge," Judge Kate Glancy says.

Her Honour Judge Kennedy says: "It wasn't our job to be popular, it was our job to do justice according to law. And I believe the calibre of people we attracted did that."

Page reviewed 30 March 2021