On Sunday 28 July 2019, one of Melbourne’s oldest institutions, the Supreme Court of Victoria, will open for Open House Melbourne.
The biggest colonial building project undertaken in Australia in the 1880s, with a gold rush budget, the Trial Division building at 210 William Street is an iconic landmark with much of the original 19th century stonework, polished cedar panelling, high ceilings and ornate plasterwork, intact.
Visitors to the Court will have an opportunity to get inside courtrooms and take in the view from spaces usually occupied by jurors, barristers, the media and judges. Staff will also be on hand to talk about how 21st century justice is delivered in a 135-year old building.
Courtroom 4, where the very first case to be heard in the building commenced with the wrong prisoner being brought to the dock from the historic cells beneath, will be open to the public. Today it is where many of the state’s high profile criminal matters are heard.
If the walls of the Banco courtroom could talk, the stories it would surely tell about the civil and criminal cases that have been heard within. And the ceremonies it has hosted in more modern times, including the welcomes and farewells of judicial officers, and the official admission of lawyers into the legal profession to practice Australian law.
Courtroom 15 with its modern interior, from a 2008 year refurbishment, provides contrast to the grandeur of the criminal courtrooms. Today it is a hive of commercial litigation and also hears high-profile appeal and civil matters.
The magnificent library with its two-tiered dome standing in the courtyard is not to be missed. The columns that support the dome speak of Greek democracy and Roman law. It’s derivative of other great legal temples and has echoes of the Old Bailey in London and the Four Courts in Dublin - yet it is unique to Melbourne - a reminder of that unparalleled decade of growth and excess, the land boom era of the 1880s.
Despite the library being 135 years old, it carries on today as a modern functioning library for the legal profession. An exhibition in the library reflects on 50 years since the Menhennitt ruling, a significant ruling delivered in the Supreme Court of Victoria that concerned the legality of abortion in Victoria.
Get involved in the Court’s Open House Melbourne activities
- Join a history and heritage tour of the building, with guided tours running every hour (for about 30 minutes) from 10.30am with the last tour at 2.30pm. Numbers are capped, with bookings only available at the Court on the day.
- Take a tour of the library and hear how the Law Library of Victoria manages one of the largest law collections in the state. Tours run every hour from 10.15am, for approximately 20 minutes, with the last tour at 2.15pm. Numbers are capped, with bookings only available at the Court on the day.
- Or, take it all in yourself, and get your Gertie on. Stream Episode 5: A Place of Reverence in the Gertie’s Law podcast series, and self-tour the building.
Supreme Court open hours for Open House Melbourne:
10am to 4pm, Sunday 28 July 2019
210 William Street
Supreme Court of Victoria
Members of the public are welcome to visit the Supreme Court of Victoria and sit in and observe matters underway at any time during the year. Find out more about attending court and matters currently underway.