Emma King reflects on WCLP's Law and Order seminar

20 June 2012 By Emma King

Emma King
Emma King

Last week participants in LV’s Williamson Community Leadership Program visited the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, Supreme Court and Melbourne Custody Centre. They heard from esteemed members of the justice system such as Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay, Magistrate Jack Vandersteen, and former Justice of the Supreme Court the Hon. Bernard Teague AO. Emma King blogs here about the experience:

Dignity, respect, humility, compassion… these themes were interwoven as we were challenged to contemplate a balance between law and order and a fair and just society.

Through the lens of an extraordinary range of powerful speakers, we had the opportunity to consider the impact of the existing judicial system on all of the players:

  • The judges and lawyers –many of whom see more misery in one week than most of us would see in a lifetime.
  • The police who put their lives on the line daily, whose passion and commitment for a job they love was palpable.
  • The criminals, whose circumstances vary from toll offences to murder, who are treated within a system where one size fits all.
  • The victims, whose circumstances we hope to never experience, with many suffering in silence, in isolation and feeling powerless.

Speakers throughout the day continued to touch on the pervasiveness of social media and the inability for legislation and our system to keep pace with such rapid and instrumental change. 

The importance of myths and misconceptions was also constantly reiterated–including how much our individual opinions are based on the perceptions of others, rather than empirical evidence. 

I kept thinking back to the bigger picture and the responsibility that each and every one of us has to understand our justice system and contribute strategically.  Emotion plays a huge role in the development of public policy within this arena, arguably more than any other.  I believe I have much to learn about what drives crime, how we as a society treat the perpetrators of crime within the context of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and where the priorities for future investment lie.

Current investment is primarily in areas of building additional prisons and law and order enforcement at railway stations.  Yet, there seems to be little focus on broader preventative measures.

I am fortunate to head up an organisation supporting parents and managers in the early childhood sector.  In early childhood education there is strong empirical evidence for investment in the early years and the benefits this brings to the life trajectory of children. International studies have linked access to quality early childhood education with reduced crime rates.

If a child starts school from behind, under conventional schooling there is little chance they will ever catch up, with disadvantage accumulating in the same way that advantage accumulates.  For every $1 that is spent in the yearly years, society saves $17 dollars down the track – if this saving was realised within the scope of one election cycle, I suspect that our investment would have a vastly different focus. 

I left the two days with an absolute appreciation for the candour and compassion of those who spoke with us.  I have many questions about what the future should look like for the community, courts and government and how the gaps between and within these should be bridged.

Emma is the Chief Executive Officer of Kindergarten Parents Victoria, a peak body representing early childhood education and care providers.  She holds a Masters Degree in Industrial and Employee Relations in addition to educational qualifications and is an accredited mediator.  Emma sits on a variety of Victorian and National early childhood education advisory and stakeholder groups.