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The human challenge of dispensing justice: Stress and wellbeing among the Australian judiciary

April 29 @ 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Once described by Michael Kirby as an ‘unmentionable topic’, judicial stress is now the subject of broad and open peer discussion, court wellbeing programs, law journal articles, public interviews, and media stories. For two reasons.

First, the emergence of a global lawyer wellbeing movement over the past decade, inspired by a large and growing body of empirical research in Australia and internationally, which has revealed alarmingly high rates of stress and depression within the legal profession.

Second, Australian judges and magistrates have spoken out publicly in recent years about their own experiences of vicarious trauma and psychological challenges while on the bench, laying to rest any notion that judicial officers are somehow immune to these human experiences. Most recently, the issue of judicial wellbeing became a subject of media and public interest, following the tragic suicides, less than six months apart, of two Victorian magistrates. These events have underlined the lack of empirical research available to inform discussions on judicial stress and the scaffolding of a strategic response.

For the first time in a public forum, Carly Schrever will present her hot-off-the-press research into the nature, prevalence, severity and sources of work-related stress among the Australian judiciary, and will be joined by Judge Frank Gucciardo and Magistrate Pauline Spencer, to share their reflections on the research findings and the human impact of their roles and experiences.

Carly Schrever is a lawyer, psychologist and award-winning researcher. Carly undertook Australia’s first empirical study measuring judicial stress and wellbeing for her doctoral research at the University of Melbourne. She is Judicial Wellbeing Advisor to the Judicial College of Victoria and regularly presents on the topic at national and international judicial conferences.

Frank Gucciardo was appointed a judge of the County Court of Victoria in 2008 following extensive practice in criminal law at the Victorian Bar. He is a regular presenter and faculty member for judicial wellness conferences in Australia and overseas, and a co-sponsoring judge of the County Court’s Resilience and Reflective Practice Program.

Pauline Spencer was appointed as a Magistrate in 2006. She currently sits at Dandenong Magistrates’ Court and Dandenong Children’s Court. Magistrate Spencer has an interest in therapeutic jurisprudence, and how the court can improve links with the community it serves. She sits on the Magistrates’ Court Judicial Wellbeing Committee.


Graduate House
Graduate House 220 Leicester St
Carlton, Victoria 3053 Australia