Courts History

Western Australia's judicial system is as steeped in history as the State itself.

When Captain James Stirling and his settlers arrived in Western Australia in 1829, one of their first activities in establishing our colony was to set up a judicial system. They did this under the authority of the British Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Eight justices of the peace were engaged to address all justice matters from administration to handing down punishments for crime. Australia had not developed its own laws at this time, so British law was used.

The first court hearing in Western Australia was held in July 1830. Initially, only four months each year were allocated for court hearings. However, by 1834 there were enough cases to justify the court opening every month.

Between 1830 and 1836, Western Australia's court proceedings were held on Saturday mornings in the Anglican Church of St James. In 1837, eight years after the European settlers first arrived, the Swan River Colony's purpose-built court, the Court of Quarter Sessions and the Court of Petty Sessions, was opened in what is now known as Stirling Gardens. It cost 698 pounds to build and was described as "chaste and appropriate". It now houses the Francis Burt Law Education Program and Old Court House Law Museum.

On the following pages you will find a rich and continuing history of the courts of Western Australia, which now operate from more than 32 different locations.

Last updated: 1-Sep-2015

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