Letter to State Government re proposed courts closure

This is copy of the letter sent to the State Government re proposed courts closure.

Hon John Rau MP

Deputy Premier
GPO Box 464

Email: agd@agd.sa.gov.au

22 December 2014

SUBJECT: Proposed courts closure

Dear Minister

I write in relation to the South Australian Government's recent announced proposal to close a number of courts across the state. We understand the proposal is to close the Magistrates Courts at Holden Hill, Port Adelaide, Mount Barker and Tanunda.

COTA SA is the peak body representing older South Australians. As such, we seek to ensure that policy and program decisions do not adversely affect older citizens.

In this instance, COTA SA is concerned that the needs and interests of older South Australians have not been fully considered. The less localised and the more centralised services, the greater difficulty older people have in accessing them.

In public consultations earlier this year we consistently heard that older people have trouble accessing services due to inadequate transport - including public and community transport. Many do not drive or restrict their driving to the local area or to daylight hours. For those in regional areas, the failure of public transport to help them access services - especially those services located in Adelaide - is even greater. Accessing transport from the regions is often prohibitively costly, especially for those on fixed incomes.

Similarly, older people frequently require carers or support people to help them access services. Many older people are themselves the carers of others. The further removed the service, the harder it is for older people to both receive and give the support required.

Remote access, through technology, is a welcome improvement to the court system. However, this can disadvantage those without the technological literacy or means to fully benefit. A significant proportion of older people fall within this category.

With the court system, these issues are compounded by the frequent delays in hearings, repeated unresolved hearings, and the complexity of the law - not to mention the emotional and financial stresses. For those who are more disadvantaged, affordable access to legal advice and support is vital. For those from Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, these issues may be further exacerbated. The continuation of the Nunga Court in Port Adelaide is therefore vital.

In making its decision on the continuation of Magistrates Courts, COTA SA therefore urges the government to fully consider the implications for older South Australians, and in particular those from regional, Indigenous and CALD communities.

COTA SA will be pleased to be part of any future consultation on the issue.

Yours sincerely

Jessie Byrne
Policy Manager

Download a copy of the letter in pdf format