• 1 May 2020, 9:00am to 1 May 2020, 5:00pm
Multiple locations
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$480 (Main conference)

The Sir Zelman Cowen Centre will host the inaugural Trust and Community Engagement: Courts, Tribunals and Commissions conference on 1 May 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.

Pre-conference specialist workshops will be held on 30 April 2020.

The Fifth Annual Sir Zelman Cowen Centre Oration will be delivered on the evening of 30 April 2020.  

About the conference

Declining trust in public institutions is increasingly a feature of the democratic landscape. Community engagement is advocated as a key strategy in rebuilding community confidence. ‘Engagement’, however, covers a wide array of approaches, often without articulating specific measurable outcomes. 

This timely conference will be an evidence-led strategic conversation about how we reinforce public trust and confidence in the legal system, especially the courts, tribunals, regulatory bodies and commissions.

Information Exchange Gallery

The Information Exchange Gallery (IEG) expo will run throughout the conference, showcasing best-practice examples of, and resources created to promote, community engagement. Exhibitors will share their existing programs with an emphasis not only on the 'what' (nature and content of their programs), but also on the 'who' (target audience/publics), 'when' (timing/staging) and 'how' (methods/approaches).

Exhibitors will be invited to share the challenges and lessons of their programs. 

Download the IEG Exhibitor Guidelines

To register your organisation’s interest in exhibiting in the IEG, contact [email protected] 

Program details

Specialist workshops (by invitation, EOIs accepted)

  • Courts and tribunals media and communication officers' workshop
  • Researchers' colloquium

For further information, contact [email protected]

Fifth Annual Sir Zelman Cowen Centre Oration

The Fifth Annual Sir Zelman Cowen Centre Oration to be delivered by the Hon Kenneth Hayne AC QC, on the topic "Trust, Confidence and Public Institutions".

Free public event. All Conference registrants will have a place reserved for them at the Oration. 

The conference program will feature plenary and panel sessions, as well as specialist streams running concurrently.

Indicative conference sessions: 

  • A Matter of Trust: Is there a crisis of confidence? What's to be done?
  • Social Media and the Court of Public Opinion
  • Reaching the Whole Community
  • UX, CX and Data Analytics: Methods from other sectors 
  • Make Civics Great Again: Courts in civics and citizenship
  • Technology and Trust
  • Naming, Shaming and Prosecuting: Regulators and commissions
  • The Trust Pitch: Managing risk and reputation

The conference program will be updated progressively as speakers are confirmed. The final program will be released by 1 March 2020. 

Register for the conference today.

The Sir Zelman Cowen Centre invites expressions of interests from researchers and others working in the following areas:

  • media and communications for courts, tribunals and commissions
  • public trust in legal institutions
  • the intersection of law, technology and community engagement
  • social media and legal institutions
  • civics education.

Expressions of interest (EOIs) of no more than 160 words are invited by 20 February 2020. For further information, contact [email protected].

Submissions will be reviewed by the Conference Advisory Committee. Submissions will be considered for inclusion in the specialist workshops to be held on 30 April 2020, and may be published in a collection of papers from the conference. 


Portrait style photo of the Hon Kenneth Hayne AC QC

We are delighted that Kenneth Hayne AC QC will deliver the fifth annual Sir Zelman Cowen Centre Oration, on the topic "Trust, Confidence and Public Institutions", as part of the Trust and Community Engagement: Courts, Tribunals and Commissions Conference.

Until June 2015, Kenneth Hayne was a Justice of the High Court of Australia, having been appointed to that Court in September 1997.

At the time of his appointment he was a judge of the Court of Appeal of Victoria, having been appointed one of the foundation judges of the Court in 1995.

He graduated in Arts and Law from the University of Melbourne and as a Bachelor of Civil Law from the University of Oxford. He was elected Rhodes Scholar for Victoria in 1969.

He joined the Victorian Bar in 1971 and was appointed Queen's Counsel for Victoria in 1984. He practised in State and Federal courts principally in commercial, constitutional and general civil matters.

He was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1992.

Since late 2015, he has been a judge of the Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts. 

Between December 2017 and February 2019, he conducted the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

He was appointed a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia in 2002. He is an Honorary Fellow of Exeter College Oxford and an Honorary Professorial Fellow at Melbourne Law School in the University of Melbourne. In 2016 he was admitted to the degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) in the University of Melbourne.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd was appointed as Chief Judge of the County Court of Victoria on 28 September 2015.

Before becoming Chief Judge, his Honour had 20 years of experience as a criminal lawyer in Australia and overseas. His Honour was previously a Senior Crown Prosecutor, an International Prosecutor at the War Crimes Chamber of the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a solicitor for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. His Honour was also a member of the Sentencing Advisory Council.

His Honour holds a dual commission as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria and sits on the Court of Appeal from time to time.

Chief Judge Kidd holds a Master of Laws from the University of Geneva, where he specialised in international humanitarian and criminal law, and a Bachelor of Law from the University of Adelaide.

Our framework of community engagement

Underpinning the conference is our framework for community engagement. It assumes four interrelated dimensions:

Infographic: The phrases 'foundational confidence in the rule of law', 'knowledge & awareness', 'capacity building & empowerment' and 'co-design & consultation' form a circle. The phrase 'public trust in law and legal institutions' is in the centre.

  1. Foundational confidence in the rule of law: A visceral and intuitive grasp of key concepts such as the separation of powers doctrine, natural justice, and an open and accountable justice system. A values-based grounding in civics education secures citizens’ commitment to the significance of the rule of law for civil society
  2. Knowledge and awareness of the different judicial and quasi-judicial bodies that exist, as well as of the rights, responsibilities and options available to all citizens.
  3. Capacity building and empowerment through relevant information resources and pathways, to enable citizens to confidently navigate, and make effective use of, entitlements afforded to citizens of a civil society.
  4. Co-design and consultation: Genuinely consulting with, and learning from, citizens to reshape services and institutions, and keeping them informed of the impact of the community’s contributions.

It is widely accepted that legal institutions serve, and must communicate with, diverse 'publics'. Beyond the 'who' question, the empirical challenge now is to identify the 'when' and the 'how' of meaningful and effective engagement.

Community engagement is a vital but resource-intensive endeavour. Establishing 'what works' is now our collective quest.

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Contact us

Tilly Junker
Legal Projects Officer
Sir Zelman Cowen Centre
+61 3 9919 5855