It’s my first time in a courtroom. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I’ve wandered through empty courtrooms and a few historical rooms that are no longer used but I have never attended a court in session.
I watch Crownies fairly regularly so the modern decor of this courtroom isn’t much of a surprise but I find it a little off just how quiet and still it is, even while people are addressing the Court.
A few years ago, when I still lived in Adelaide, I worked for a while as a magazine courier, ferrying hundreds of street magazines around the city on a trolley. Occasionally I would need to make deliveries to the Magistrates’ and Supreme Court buildings and I remember it being similarly quiet. One visit particularly sticks out in my mind.
It was late in the afternoon on a day when the weather was dreadful: grey, wet and cold. I had to make a delivery to the Magistrates’ Court and took the opportunity to pause on one of the upper floors for some relief from the weather outside. Some of you may have experienced one of those moments where you’ve reached the top of a mountain, witnessed an amazing sun rise or sunset or done something so life affirming that your brain shuts down and all you can think is “Fuck me. Living is pretty damned fine.” As I looked through the windows and out over Victoria Square I had the total opposite reaction.
The level I was on was totally deserted apart from myself and almost completely soundproofed from everything outside. Through the windows I could see people scrambling through the crowd to catch a bus, huddling under shelter to keep out of the rain and very few smiles. It was a lonely experience. The stillness of the room and the utter quietness made me feel as though there was no life in the building and since then I had been left with the impression that Courts were cold, inhospitable places.
This changed today.
As I said, the Court was quiet even when people were addressing the Court but it was a different kind of quiet. It was the quiet of a library or a study space, where the silence is the noise of concentration and consideration. I suppose that it was also the sound of the legal process at work: reading and deliberation.
This realisation stuck in my brain. What I had originally thought was empty and lifeless turned out to be quite active but operating so smoothly that you wouldn’t notice it unless you were in the middle of what was going on. I don’t know why but it has given me greater confidence in our bid to be heard in the Courts. Maybe the decision won’t come back in our favour but unlike the silence that comes back to us from City Hall, the silence of the Court is the sound of us being heard.