The Sir Zelman Cowen Centre (SZCC) provides training and research opportunities for the legal sector, including courts and tribunals staff.

In 2015, the Courts and Tribunals Academy was launched by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Honourable Marilyn Warren.

Training & research

The Courts and Tribunals Academy provides:

  • professional development for courts and tribunals staff
  • consultancy services for the courts, public service, legal and allied professions
  • research into court governance and court management
  • cross-jurisdictional networks, nationally and internationally.

Research: An Intergenerational Oral History of the Koori Courts in Victoria (Ngarnga Nanggit)

The Sir Zelman Cowen Centre (SZCC) at Victoria University has been awarded an Australia Research Council (ARC) grant for an Intergenerational Oral History of the Koori Courts (Ngarnga Nanggit).

The purpose of the project is to investigate how the establishment of Indigenous courts – where Elders preside with judicial officers, bringing their cultural knowledge to bear on sentencing – has been a major justice system reform. This timely oral history, recording the experiences of key stakeholders, will demonstrate how the justice system can respond to cultural needs while preserving principles of fairness in sentencing. This legacy project will creatively document a critical turning point in Aboriginal self-determination.

The project will record the creation of an innovative culturally appropriate response to the over-representation of Indigenous people in custody. It will also document the turning point in Aboriginal, legal and Australian history, and a showcase of an inclusive justice system.

A major outcome of the research will be a touring exhibition including video interviews with Elders and significant key players involved in the establishment and expansion of the Koori courts in Victoria.

The SZCC is working in partnership with the Koori Unit at Court Services Victoria on this multi-disciplinary project. It will involve young Aboriginal scholars meeting and interviewing Elders and respected persons about the establishment of, and the significant moments in, the history of the Koori courts.

The project will:

  • create an accessible case-study and archival record of the development and early challenges of the Koori Courts in Victoria
  • identify factors that have contributed to success and sustainability of the Koori Courts in Victoria
  • build the research capacity of young Indigenous scholars
  • explore the role of Indigenous justice in Australia in the context of international developments in alternative justice practices for Indigenous communities
  • provide a reciprocal intergenerational learning opportunity, so Indigenous Elders can pass on their knowledge and experience to future Indigenous leaders.

The project offers opportunities for postgraduate and undergraduate students.

PhD and masters degree project-based scholarships are available for graduates with a degree in one of the following:

  • law
  • justice
  • criminology
  • history
  • legal studies.

Applications are now open and can be made via the SmartyGrants portal. Applications for the scholarships close on 28 February 2021.

There are also a number of research assistant positions, and undergraduate students will have the opportunity to undertake placements on the project as part of their work-integrated learning assessments.

Graduates in filmmaking and exhibition curatorial management are also encouraged to apply for the research assistant roles and postgraduate placements.

For more information, contact [email protected].

The project will be guided by an expert Advisory Board and Steering Committee:

Advisory Board members:

  • Andrew Jackomos PSM (Chair) (Executive Director, Aboriginal Economic Development, Inclusion Group, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions)
  • Professor Richard Broome (Adjunct Professor, SZCC) (President, Royal Historical Society of Victoria Council)
  • Paul Grant (former head of the Koori Court Division of the County Court & Former Judge)
  • Magistrate Rose Falla (Magistrates' Court of Victoria)
  • Melissa Harrison (Director, Koori Unit, Court Services Victoria)
  • Karen Jackson (Director, Moondani Balluk & Associate Provost Indigenous (Interim), Victoria University).

Secretariat:

  • Professor Kathy Laster (Director, SZCC)
  • Adjunct Professor Anne Wallace (Deputy Director, SZCC).

Chief Investigator for this project is:

  • Professor Kathy Laster (Director, SZCC)

Co-Investigators:

  • Professor Anne Wallace (Adjunct Professor, SZCC)
  • Professor Richard Broome (Adjunct Professor, SZCC) (President, Royal Historical Society of Victoria Council)

Innovation in courts & tribunals

We focus on how innovation can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of courts and tribunals.

Past activities

The Hon Kenneth Hayne AC QC delivered the 2020 Sir Zelman Cowen Centre Oration online on the topic ‘Trust, confidence and public institutions’ on Wednesday 5 August 2020.

Conferences & research seminars

Our thought leadership events feature national and international experts.

Join us to debate, learn and discuss timely issues for courts and tribunals and the wider legal sector.

Past events

  • Our 'Researchers Colloquium on Trust' brought together over 30 participants, including academics from 12 Australian universities drawn from a range of disciplines. The group discussed the importance of trust as a central factor in creating and maintaining public confidence in Australian courts and tribunals, and in the Australian justice system more broadly.
  • The 'Online Dispute Resolution: The State of the Art' symposium which provided an intensive and experiential learning opportunity for strategic decision makers interested in online dispute resolution as a mechanism for improving access to justice.
  • Twilight Public Lecture: ‘Royal Commissions: How do they shape public policy?’. A panel of past Chairs of Royal Commissions and expert commentators discussed how royal commissions have become the model for ensuring public accountability. Listen to a podcast of the event.
  • 'Legal Education for the Virtual Age' colloquium featuring law deans and academics from 15 Australian and international law schools. A delegation of participants from the colloquium later shared their knowledge with American academics at the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Meeting in San Diego.
  • 'Law and Courts in an Online World' conference which brought together over 300 delegates from 10 countries to explore the ways in which disruptive change and emerging business models are reshaping law and legal institutions. Watch conference sessions.

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Royal Commissions Public Lecture. Left to right: Prof David Weisbrot AM, the Hon. Marcia Neave AO, the Hon. Bernard Teague AO and Adjunct Prof Alan Kohler

Masterclasses in law

We offer executive & continuing education for legal professionals. Advance your professional knowledge at our expert masterclasses without the need to enrol in a formal degree.

Sentencing Theory and Practice Masterclass

Facilitated by Emeritus Professor Arie Freiberg, Chair of the Victorian and Tasmanian Sentencing Advisory Councils.

To find out more and express your interest in attending the masterclass, contact [email protected].

Previous masterclasses

We have previously delivered masterclasses on Online Dispute Resolution and Technology Teams in Modern Courts and Tribunals, run by international experts.

In 2019, we delivered our inaugural Masterclass for Government Investigators to over 70 investigators from 13 regulatory agencies.