Mags Work Experience

2014 Magistrates Work Experience Program - Balawyn Jones

2014 Magistrates Work Experience Program  – Balawyn Jones

 In 2014, JATL received an unprecedented number of applications for its annual Magistrates Work Experience Program, organised with the support of the Magistrates Court of Queensland and UQ Pro Bono Centre. BA/LLB candidate Balawyn Jones was one of the successful applicants out of a very talented pool of candidates. These are her reflections on her experiences during the Program

Magistrate Jacqui Payne

Magistrate Jacqui Payne

I had the good fortune of being paired with Magistrate Jacqueline Payne. A cursory Google search shows how influential Magistrate Payne has been in the legal sphere. As some of you would know, Magistrate Payne was the first Indigenous woman to be admitted as a solicitor, and also be appointed to the Magistrates Court, in Queensland. Magistrate Payne has been involved in many high-profile cases during her time on the bench, including the Haneef, Bali Nine and Musgrave Park ‘Tent Embassy’ cases.

Magistrate Payne’s experience in private practice (having started her own firm) and in both the Magistrate’s and Murri Court, although important to my experience, was not the thing that struck me most about my time in the Court. From my first day, Magistrate Payne made me feel welcome and involved, and through this experience and her kindness I learnt more from one person than I have in years of study.

Off to a running start, I had the privilege in my first week of sitting in the Murri Court with Magistrate Payne and the Indigenous Elders and Respected Persons. I learnt a lot about the complexity of issues that are faced by actors in the legal system, in particular the challenges faced in the application of criminal law to disadvantaged and marginalised defendants.

University of Queensland student Balawyn Jones

University of Queensland student Balawyn Jones

Magistrate Payne ensured that I was sitting in on different types of cases every week and so I experienced everything from arrest to sentencing. Magistrate Payne went to lengths to explain the context and policy behind the points of law that were raised in court, for example the difference between context and excuse in criminal law. She even made traffic court interesting, with tea break discussions on the mandatory sentencing policy behind traffic infringements. 

I was lucky enough to be able to conduct research for reserved decisions and to spend time in between sessions picking her brain on anything from the front page of the newspaper that day to cultural diversity or feminism. Every day I spent in the Magistrates Court Program was exciting, whether I was listening to the details of elaborate car chases in a bail hearing or being subject to a demonstration of the ‘Number 1 come along hold’ by the Police Prosecutor (I shouldn’t have asked…).

This experience connected my degree to real people and real scenarios. I would highly recommend the Program to anyone! Many thanks again to the UQ Pro Bono Centre and JATL for facilitating this wonderful opportunity and, of course, Magistrate Payne for putting up with me shadowing her for weeks on end. 

Balawyn Jones


2014 Magistrates Work Experience Program - Madeleine Ryan

Each year, the Justice and the Law Society organises a Magistrates Work Experience Program in conjunction with the Magistrates Court of Queensland and UQ Pro Bono Centre. Participating law students are paired with a Magistrate and attend their Court one day per week for six weeks. This year, JATL received an unprecedented number of applications from an exceptionally  well-qualified group of students. BA/LLB candidate Madeleine Ryan was one of the successful applicants, and these are her reflections on her experiences during the Program.

Over the past two and a half years at law school I have participated in a number of work experience and volunteer programs in various legal settings including barristers’ chambers, a top tier law firm and a not-for-profit legal aid organisation.  Of all my experiences, the one I would most highly recommend to my fellow law students is the Justice and the Law Magistrates Work Experience Program.  Despite attending each week at the same location, every day was an opportunity to learn something new and to meet new people.  I observed an array of matters including criminal hearings, civil applications, lengthy sentencing and traffic hearings.  I met magistrates, legal officers, public and police prosecutors, solicitors and barristers, all of whom were very willing to impart some of their wisdom, both personal and professional, to a budding lawyer. 

Above all, however, it was thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening to meet and learn from Magistrate Christine Roney.  She was welcoming, engaging and eager to teach as well as to learn my opinion on relevant issues.  Over a morning coffee she gave me valuable career advice and tips for distinguishing myself in a competitive job market.  Magistrate Roney shed light on the daily routine of a magistrate, explained how one may come to hold the position and divulged what she considered to be some of the challenges facing all magistrates in the courtroom.  Especially in the area of criminal law, she expressed feelings of frustration at there being insufficient “strings to the magisterial bow” to address the underlying issues presented by cases involving, for example, people battling especially drug addictions or mental illness.  As a student of criminology, I was particularly interested to see just how prevalent such issues are in the criminal justice system, and how they are dealt with in practice.

I have taken a lot away from my participation in the Magistrates Work Experience Program – new knowledge, new interests, new contacts and new ideas for my future career path.  The Program has provided me with an insight into multiple facets of our legal system, not simply the role of the magistrate, and has given vital context to my future legal studies.  Most importantly, I have acquired the most valuable resource available to any student - a supportive and experienced mentor.

 Madeleine Ryan