Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Mystique of the High Court of Australia



The Mystique of the High Court of Australia

By Satsuki Ranjou
Spirit News
August 31, 2073

The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the States, and the ability to interpret the Constitution of Australia.

The High Court is mandated by Constitution section 71, which vests in it the judicial power of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Court was constituted by, and its first members were appointed under, the Judiciary Act 1903. It now operates under Constitution sections 71 to 75, the Judiciary Act, and the High Court of Australia Act 1979. It is composed of seven Justices: the Chief Justice of Australia, currently Robert French, and six other Justices. They are appointed by the Governor-General of Australia, on the advice of the federal government, and must retire at age 70.

Since 1980, The High Court has been located in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. The majority of its sittings are held in the High Court building, situated in the Parliamentary Triangle, overlooking Lake Burley Griffin. With an increasing utilisation of video links, sittings are also commonly held in the state capitals.

In the 1950s, Prime Minister Robert Menzies established a plan to develop Canberra and construct other important national buildings. A 1959 plan featured a new building for the High Court on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin, next to the location for the new Parliament House and the National Library of Australia. This plan was abandoned in 1968 and the location of the Parliament was moved, later settling on the present site on Capital Hill.

In March 1968, the government announced that the court would move to Canberra. In 1972 an international competition was held attracting 158 entries. In 1973 the firm of Edwards Madigan Torzillo Briggs was declared the winner of the two-stage competition. Architect Chris Kringas was the Principal Designer and Director in charge working with Feiko Bouman. In March 1975, only one month before construction began, Kringas died aged 38. Following his death, Feiko Bouman, Hans Marelli and Colin Madigan supervised the construction of the design. The constructed building is relevantly identical to the 1973 competition design.

Construction began in April 1975 on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin, in the Parliamentary Triangle. The site is just to the east of the axis running between Capital Hill and the Australian War Memorial. The High Court building houses three courtrooms, Justices' chambers, and the Court's main registry, library, and corporate services facilities. It is an unusual and distinctive structure, built in the brutalist style, and features an immense public atrium with a 24-metre-high roof. The neighbouring National Gallery was also designed by the firm of Edwards Madigan Torzillo and Briggs. There are similarities between the two buildings in material and style but significant differences in architectural form and spatial concept. The building was completed in 1980 and the majority of the court's sittings have been held in Canberra since then.

The High Court and National Gallery Precinct were added to the Australian National Heritage List in November 2007.