Moving Justice closer to the people: an interview with Stephen McAuley

We interviewed Stephen McAuley, Principal Solicitor at McAuley Lawyers and Chair of the Parramatta Legal & Justice Coalition to hear about the opportunities of expanding the Parramatta Justice Precinct. 

What is the Parramatta Legal & Justice Coalition?

The Parramatta Legal and Justice Coalition is a group of universities, businesses, law firms, barrister chambers, as well as the City of Parramatta Council, who have come together to promote Parramatta and its surrounds as a centre for access to justice in Western Sydney. 

What have the Parramatta Legal & Justice Coalition been advocating for?

We have been advocating principally for a more permanent presence of the superior Courts in Parramatta. At the moment we have regular sittings of the Local Court of NSW, but we’re hoping to attract more civil sittings of the District Court of NSW, Supreme Court of NSW, Federal Court of Australia and High Court of Australia.

What kind of advocacy work has the Coalition been doing?

We have been meeting with various heads of jurisdictions, politicians, State and Federal members of Parliament to promote an awareness of Parramatta and its potential for further sittings of the various courts in Parramatta.

Why is it important to advocate for an expansion of the Parramatta Justice Precinct?

Parramatta is the geographical centre of Sydney and it’s had a huge explosion in population, so it makes sense that there are regular Court sittings here in Parramatta rather than a predominance of court sittings in the Sydney CBD.

There’s been a huge growth in population and an increase in the number of businesses that have relocated here - the four major accounting firms are now here in Parramatta. There’s so much construction and investment in infrastructure - we’ve got the Parramatta Light Rail and we’ll have greater connectivity between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD with the Metro.

There’s a lot of business going on and we think there is a real need for a greater focus on the expansion of the Legal Precinct here in Parramatta. We’ve got great court facilities but they need to be better utilised and expanded so that the people of Western Sydney can more readily access justice here in Parramatta.

What benefits could there be for Parramatta in having an expanded Justice Precinct?

It will continue to grow Parramatta as the geographical and commercial centre of Sydney.

There’d be a huge growth in jobs. We’ve done studies to suggest the number of legal jobs has grown and will continue to grow with the population. More businesses will benefit from having more access to justice here in Parramatta.

It’s very important that people can have their cases dealt with in Court, in close proximity to where they live or do business. 

Why did McAuley Lawyers choose Parramatta?

My firm McAuley Lawyers saw Parramatta as a sleeping giant in terms of the potential for growth. Parramatta has tremendous potential for growth over the next five to ten years, with the population forecasted to grow, the increasing number of jobs and businesses opening up here in Parramatta. There’s so much potential. We saw Parramatta as a great opportunity for our firm.

What opportunities do you envisage for the future of legal services in Parramatta?

The superior courts sitting on a regular basis in Parramatta will expand the number of legal jobs in and around Parramatta, and is in line with the population and business growth in the west of Sydney.  This will lead to further development of the existing law schools in and around Parramatta which are already producing outstanding lawyers.  The Parramatta region is already the fastest growing region in terms of number of lawyers, and this will only increase in the years ahead.