Legal volunteers at the Coroner’s Court

Group of volunteers

Deb Akers, Wade Shillinglaw, Scott Anderson and Martin Botros.In November, law students Deborah Akers and Wade Shillinglaw and LTU law graduate Martin Botros attended the inaugural sitting of the new Coroner’s Court at the County Court.

Students have been volunteering with the Court for several months, working on the implementation of the new Act, which came into effect on 1 November. This is the first Inquisitorial Court in Victoria and the Act gives the Coroner new powers and focus.

The volunteers have been working on several publications, from Fact Sheets for the public to information for health professionals. They also assisted with press releases and articles for the Medical Practice board and the Nurses’ Board. Some took up the opportunity to sit in on inquests and see firsthand how the process works – which, as an inquisitorial court, is quite different from most other courts.

Deborah, who has a health background as a midwife and health educator found that volunteering utilised her research and writing skills, legal knowledge, and also built on her previous experience with children’s and family court issues.

‘As a nurse and as an outreach maternal and child health nurse in Melbourne (working closely with child protection and other community services), I am familiar with the legal system and the Courts. Yet I learnt a lot about the existing system and the new court. As a law student, the newly-formed court with a focus on the preventative role of the jurisdiction was interesting. As a nurse, I also value the extended powers of the coroner and the changed definitions within reportable deaths. The other areas that came to light were to do with the history of the jurisdiction – discovered because of the need for researching this and attending some presentations by Ian Freckleton.’