Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan): My adjournment matter tonight is directed to the Attorney-General and regards justices of the peace and bail justices.
The services JPs provide on a volunteer basis are incredibly important to the community, and we must ensure these services continue to be available during this time.
From what I understand, the Royal Victorian Association of Honorary Justices, the Law Institute of Victoria and the Department of Justice and Community Safety have been working together to provide appropriate guidelines and keep JPs well informed during the pandemic.
From the JPs I’ve spoken to in my electorate, a few have been able to move to conducting certain document witnessing and certification services via Zoom—but many have not. It would seem that many JPs are typically older members of the community and have decided to ‘shut up shop’ for the time being, due to the risks associated with COVID.
This likely puts an additional burden on those who are able to offer services online, as well as post offices and pharmacies who are authorised to provide true copy and statutory declaration certifications. Also considering that people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds may need a JP who speaks their language, I can foresee a problem if services are stretched thin.
I note that currently on the department’s website, expressions of interest or applications for the volunteer roles of bail justices or justices of the peace are not being accepted at this time.
I have been advised from the Royal Victorian Association of Honorary Justices that they are launching an online learning portal very shortly, but the problem remains that not all JPs will be able to make use of it, because some lack the access to and understanding of technology.
In New South Wales, JP Online is an online portal for prospective JPs and existing JPs to complete a range of tasks all in one place on the NSW justice department’s website. This sounds like a good way to make training and advice readily available, as well as encouraging younger people to become a JP.
As we continue to move all aspects of our lives towards ‘COVID normal’, the action that I seek is for the Attorney-General to investigate ways to improve the online literacy and support for JPs, as well as ways to encourage younger people to become a JP.