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NJCA/ANU Joint Conference 2019; Judges: Angry? Biased? Burned Out?

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This conference brings together members of the judiciary, academics, policy makers and experts in fields such as psychology, to consider current issues and challenges in the Australian justice system.

The long held perception that emotion impairs our ability to reason has created the ideal of the dispassionate judge. Judges are expected to preside in court and render judicial decisions while remaining detached from, and unmoved by, painful and harrowing events recounted before them.

Does the experience of emotion impair a judge’s ability to be fair and reasoned in their decision-making? In the midst of the emotionally charged arena of the courtroom, what happens to impartiality? Is it possible, or indeed even desirable, for a judge to remain emotionally detached? The repeated exposure to tragic circumstances places judicial officers at risk of secondary trauma. What can be done to assist in improving judicial well-being and where does this responsibility lie? This conference examines and seeks answers to these important questions.


  • Justice Stephen Gageler AC, High Court of Australia will present the Keynote Address
  • The Honourable Judge Andrew J Wistrich, formerly United States District Court
  • Justice Jennifer Coate, Family Court of Australia
  • Justice Stephen Thackray, Family Court of Western Australia
  • Judge Felicity Hampel, County Court of Victoria
  • Magistrate Pauline Spencer, Magistrates’ Court of Victoria
  • Dr Heather Conway, Queens University Belfastprofile
  • Prof Terry Maroney, Law School, Vanderbilt University (by Skype) – profile
  • Dr Ian Freckelton QC, barrister at law – profile
  • Assoc Prof Tracey Booth, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydneyprofile
  • Dr Craig Hassed, Monash Universityprofile
  • Emeritus Prof Kathy Mack, Flinders University – profile
  • Prof Lindsay Oades, Melbourne Graduate School of Educationprofile
  • Prof Sharyn Roach-Anleu, Flinders University – profile
  • Kate Rossmanith, Author profile
  • Dr Stephen Tang, College of Law, Australian National University – profile

Sessions include: 

Emotion Regulation

Presenter: Prof Terry Maroney, Law School, Vanderbilt University (by Skype)

Session description pending

Recognising & Challenging Bias

Presenter: Judge Andrew Wistrich, former Judge of the District Court of the United States

Session description pending

 Judicial Emotion and Impartiality

Presenters: Emeritus Professor Kathy Mack, Flinders University & Professor Sharyn Roach Anleu, Flinders University

The conventional image of judicial authority, emphasising detachment and impersonality, contrasts with the emotion which is inevitably part of everyday judicial work, especially in high volume lower courts where magistrates frequently engage directly with members of the public. Drawing in extensive empirical research, this presentation examines how judicial officers understand the meaning of impartiality and the place of emotion in their work.

Emotion in the courtroom

Presenters: Justice Jennifer Coate, Family Court of Australia & Dr Ian Freckelton QC, barrister at law

Session description pending

Emotion in sentencing: Offender’s remorse and victim impact statements

Presenters: Associate Professor Tracey Booth, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney & Kate Rossmanith, Author

When sentencing an offender, judges are frequently required to assess the victim’s experience as presented through a victim impact statement, as well as any evidence of remorse on the part of the offender. They may also have to attend to and manage expressions of emotion from those in the courtroom, as well as regulating their own feelings and demeanour. Two presentations report on findings from in-depth Australian research on these aspects of judging and emotion.

Well-being Literacy and Positive Psychology

Presenters: Dr Craig Hassed, Monash University & Prof Lindsay Oades, Director, Centre for Positive Psychology, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne

Drawing upon the empirical bases of positive psychology, well-being science and the growing body of research into the effectiveness of mindfulness, this session will consider individual and organisational strategies to promote well-being, productivity and engagement. The session will explore the philosophy and practice of mindfulness across a wide variety of applications including managing personal stress, dealing with secondary trauma, coping with workload, enhancing mental and physical health, compassion and effective communication. The importance of language use in improving well-being in organisations will be explored, with reference to the new concept of well-being literacy.

Superhuman or Super humans? How structures and relationships can encourage wellness in the judiciary and the legal profession

Presenters: Judge Felicity Hampel, County Court of Victoria, Magistrate Pauline Spencer, Magistrates’ Court of Victoria & Dr Stephen Tang, ANU College of Law, Australian National University

The session will draw together various themes from the conference and invite participants to engage in discussion about what a wellness approach might look like for them personally and for their court or legal practice. The presenters will briefly survey the latest research on wellbeing in the judiciary and the profession, before suggesting a way forward that goes beyond a focus on the individual, to encompass structural, relational and systemic reforms that promote wellbeing.  This discussion will provide a platform for participants to share their own insights about what works for them, their court or their legal practice.

Please note that conference sessions are subject to change.

Early bird registration is available until 9am Monday 14th January 2019.

To register please visit HERE