Courts Services Victoria – VCAT Oakleigh
The new VCAT Venue in Oakleigh Melbourne delivers community justice in a decentralised location and provides a welcoming and non-adversarial environment to facilitate the resolution of a wide range of disputes and other issues by focusing on mediation and conciliation.
This new Venue is located in the activity centre of downtown Oakleigh to serve the people of the Eastern Suburbs.
The new Venue is accessible, safe and easy to navigate, and provides an environment that recognises that people who visit are often anxious and stressed. The design also provides good sightlines for staff and safe escape from Hearing and Interview Rooms for when staff need to retreat quickly when an adverse situation arises.
The Public Waiting Areas provide a wide range of seating options for people to prepare for hearings, sit and wait, watch television, work and consult with staff and legal representatives.
The Hearing Rooms are designed to facilitate the resolution of matters in a space that does not resemble a formal courtroom, but by using a variety of colours and finishes, creates a friendlier atmosphere that is less intimidating than traditional courtrooms.
Our design intention is that the centrepoint of the Hearing Rooms is the main table where matters are discussed and resolved more like a family dining table than a barrister’s bench.
Members who conduct hearings can sit behind a bench to establish a level of formality and respect from people who attend, but they also can opt to sit at the main table to mediate and adjudicate between opposing parties in a similar way to how important family matters are discussed around the dining table at home.
The client, VCAT through Court Services Victoria clearly stated that the new Venue was to be non-adversarial, inclusive, friendly and safe for both staff and visitors, provide artwork and plants and be accessible. The Hearing Rooms were not to resemble a court but yet were to retain a level of formality so that people will recognise and respect the jurisdiction of members who adjudicate a wide variety of matters.
The public will benefit enormously from this project by not having to visit the main VCAT Venue at 55 King Street in the CBD. The new Oakleigh Venue therefore is not located in the legal district of the CBD and provides a less intimidating community space overlooking a local park nearby Oakleigh’s diverse Town Centre and Railway Station.
Victims of domestic violence also have secure and separate access to the second level of the Venue where support staff are located, and those people can give evidence via video link to Hearing Rooms from a remote Witness Room located on the staff floor level.
The new Venue at Oakleigh is the first of three to be rolled out across Melbourne and will relieve the current pressure on the main VCAT Venue at 55 King Street and, being the first of its type, creates a new direction for the delivery of community justice in Victoria.