National Judicial College of Australia 2023

A National for Australian Judicial Officers

Foreword

“Judicial education - judicial formation or continuing professional education - is now a dynamic, intrinsic, shared experience central to the vocation of the Australian judicial officer and an ongoing antidote to what can often seem like the loneliness of the bench. Judicial education must, and under the continuing auspices of the NJCA I have no doubt will, continue to be comprehensive, consistent, systematic, and of the highest quality. Through it, let us hope, the myth and the reality of our quest for justice will merge.”

“We should never forget that we as judges are engaged with one of the greatest concerns of humankind - the cause of justice on earth. If we can improve the quality and intensity of our engagement individually and collectively, we should.”

Justice Stephen Gageler - Keynote Address, NJCA 20 th Anniversary, 8 December 2022

Background

For more than 20 years, the National Judicial College of Australia (the NJCA) has been the national leader in judicial education and training across all Australian States and Territories. In December 2021, the Australian Law Reform Commission called for the development of a national curriculum for judicial education 1. In September 2022, the NJCA Council approved the design and development of a National Curriculum for Australian Judicial Officers (the Curriculum).

The Curriculum builds on the most recent comprehensive judicial education report on curriculum in Australia, the NJCA report prepared by Mr Christopher Roper in 2007 2 . The Curriculum is based on best practice in judicial education 3 , modern curricula design, identified needs of judicial officers 4 , and encourages contemporary andragogic approaches, experiential and transformative learning methods.

Purpose & Aim

Purpose

The Curriculum is designed to provide guidance for initial and continuing judicial education in Australia to enable judicial officers to meet the professional development expectations set out in the National Standard for Professional Development for Australian Judicial Officers 5. 

Aim

It is intended for judicial officers of both courts and tribunals across all jurisdictions. It is designed to be adaptable and dynamic and is not intended to limit what can be offered in judicial education. However, it is intended to provide a comprehensive landscape for judicial education to assist Australian judicial education bodies to identify priority areas for program development, encourage increased coordination between bodies and jurisdictions, and to avoid duplication of effort 6. The Curriculum may also be used by judicial officers to inform and to guide their own judicial learning.

The Quest for Judicial Excellence

In November 2019, the NJCA published a document on ‘Attaining Judicial Excellence’, which describes the knowledge, skills, and qualities of judicial officers considered to be facilitative of judicial excellence in order to ‘assist in designing professional development programs for Australian judicial officers’ 7. The Curriculum is intended to provide a framework for the development of these programs. These programs should provide judicial officers with pathways “to foster judicial capacity… which focuses on induction, orientation and transition to the [position] and then on a continuous renewal of professional education and sharpening of judicial skills” 8 ; and one that also enables the development of programs that address needs at different career stages.

The NJCA is the national leader in judicial education. Since our inception over twenty years ago, judges and magistrates have led the design, development and delivery of NJCA programs. The Curriculum reflects the NCJA Council and NJCA Program Advisory Committee member’s commitment to the five sustainable goals of judicial education and training:

Philosophy & Structure

“The beginning of judicial wisdom is having the humility to recognise that there will always be things which bear on the proper performance of the judicial function which one simply does not know. There will be skills one simply does not have or has not yet mastered. To recognise those human weaknesses is also the beginning of judicial education. Judicial education tethers us to human experience beyond our personal professional experience.”

“If we are to be true to our ideals of objectivity, fairness, and impartiality, we need to confront our own prejudices and preconceptions and be prepared to appreciate the diversity of society we serve.”

Justice Stephen Gageler - Keynote Address, NJCA 20 th Anniversary, 8 December 2022

Four Core Dimensions of Judicial Learning

In the past, judicial education has, appropriately, focused on judge-craft skills and substantive law. However, over the last decade, there has been a growing acknowledgement for judicial education to place greater emphasis on both social contextual training and the exploration of the personal values and attitudes that the individual judicial officer brings to their role 9.

In Roper’s 2007 Curriculum Report, social context and judicial values and attitudes were largely addressed as standalone modules of learning. Since that report, there has been growing acceptance that competence in these two areas is also critical to the judicial role and, therefore, are also essential dimensions that need to be considered when developing a judicial education program.

Accordingly, this Curriculum is underpinned by Four Core Dimensions of Judicial Learning (judge-craft skills, substantive and procedural law, social context, and attitudes and values). This is important given this curriculum is not exhaustive or prescribed, and programs may be developed now or in the future drawing from different parts of this Curriculum or beyond this Curriculum. Therefore, it is important to articulate the Core Dimensions so that they can guide judicial education program design, development and delivery.

Levels of Analysis

In the past, judicial education has, appropriately, focused on judge-craft skills and substantive law. However, over the last decade, there has been a growing acknowledgement for judicial education to place greater emphasis on both social contextual training and the exploration of the personal values and attitudes that the individual judicial officer brings to their role 9.

In Roper’s 2007 Curriculum Report, social context and judicial values and attitudes were largely addressed as standalone modules of learning. Since that report, there has been growing acceptance that competence in these two areas is also critical to the judicial role and, therefore, are also essential dimensions that need to be considered when developing a judicial education program.

Accordingly, this Curriculum is underpinned by Four Core Dimensions of Judicial Learning (judge-craft skills, substantive and procedural law, social context, and attitudes and values). This is important given this curriculum is not exhaustive or prescribed, and programs may be developed now or in the future drawing from different parts of this Curriculum or beyond this Curriculum. Therefore, it is important to articulate the Core Dimensions so that they can guide judicial education program design, development and delivery.

Core Judicial Qualities

In the past, judicial education has, appropriately, focused on judge-craft skills and substantive law. However, over the last decade, there has been a growing acknowledgement for judicial education to place greater emphasis on both social contextual training and the exploration of the personal values and attitudes that the individual judicial officer brings to their role 9.

In Roper’s 2007 Curriculum Report, social context and judicial values and attitudes were largely addressed as standalone modules of learning. Since that report, there has been growing acceptance that competence in these two areas is also critical to the judicial role and, therefore, are also essential dimensions that need to be considered when developing a judicial education program.

Accordingly, this Curriculum is underpinned by Four Core Dimensions of Judicial Learning (judge-craft skills, substantive and procedural law, social context, and attitudes and values). This is important given this curriculum is not exhaustive or prescribed, and programs may be developed now or in the future drawing from different parts of this Curriculum or beyond this Curriculum. Therefore, it is important to articulate the Core Dimensions so that they can guide judicial education program design, development and delivery.

Units of Judicial Learning

The units of judicial learning are the broad areas under which programs of professional learning are organised. In each of these areas are programs that support the development of judicial capacity in all dimensions of judicial learning. The units of judicial learning are based on Roper’s 2007 Curriculum Report. Amendments and additions have been made to reflect best practice in judicial learning, globally, as well as changes to the reality of the judicial role 12.

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