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175th anniversary of the Supreme Court in Victoria

22 March 2016

This year marks the 175th anniversary of the Supreme Court in Victoria. Various activities are being planned to mark the occasion including talks and tours for the public, and the publication of a landmark book on the history of the Court.

The first resident Supreme Court judge arrived from New South Wales in April 1841. Judge John Walpole Willis admitted a number of barristers and attorneys, including Sir Redmond Barry, on the first day of business before presiding over a number of civil matters.

To commemorate the 175th anniversary an exhibition showcasing historical items of significance will be on display in the Supreme Court Library. Distinguished author and historian Dr Andrew Lemon will speak about the significance of this milestone in our state’s history at the launch of the exhibition on 31 March.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the launch and view the exhibition. The ‘pink book’ containing Justice Menhennitt’s 1969 ruling on the legality of abortions in the trial of R v Davidson, the black execution cap worn by judges when sentencing a prisoner to death, and the Court book that records the fate of Ned Kelly, are among the items that will be on display. Court staff will be on hand to discuss the various artefacts.

The launch event is free and will run from 5-6pm. Places are limited and bookings (External link) essential. The exhibition runs in the Library until September 2016, and will be on display at regional courthouses later in the year.

Throughout the month of April, the Court will also host guided tours of the exhibition and the Supreme Court building for the public. Take in the magnificent library, walk the corridors, explore the history and perhaps see inside a courtroom. The heritage listed courthouse took 10 years to build and was completed in 1884. The beautifully restored courtrooms feature elaborately moulded plaster and marvellously fitted joinery, and much of the original furniture and fixtures remain today. Bookings can be made online (External link).

Note for image: This watercolour of the original courthouse, located at the corner of King and Bourke Streets, is by Liardet, W. F. E. (Wilbraham Frederick Evelyn), 1799-1878. Liardet completed a number of watercolour studies of early Melbourne.
Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

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