Until this Project, there had never been a comprehensive national socio-legal study of the entire Australian judiciary.  The second National Survey of Australian Magistrates, the National Survey of Australian Judges and the earlier National Survey of Australian Magistrates 2002 together produce a comprehensive socio-legal analysis of the Australian judiciary.  These Surveys have provided extensive new knowledge about the attitudes and experiences of judicial officers towards their everyday work and the professional, social and personal backgrounds and experiences they bring to decisionmaking.

The findings identify qualities and attitudes of the judiciary as a whole as well as providing more specific information about judges as compared with magistrates.  Comparisons with findings from the National Survey of Australian Magistrates 2002 enables identification of similarities and differences in the composition, attitudes and working lives of the magistracy during a time of rapid change in this branch of the Australian judiciary.

The 2007 National Survey of Australian Magistrates was sent to 457 magistrates throughout Australia in late May 2007.  This included all the state and territory magistrates courts (including the Local Court of New South Wales) but not the Federal Magistrates Court (as it then was; it is now the Federal Circuit Court).  The survey was printed as a booklet with a bright orange cover to distinguish it from the earlier magistrates survey in 2002 and the judges survey.  242 surveys were returned, giving a response rate of 52.9%. The magistrates who responded are generally representative of the magistracy as a whole, in terms of gender, age and time on the bench.  There is some variation in terms of jurisdiction, with a slight overrepresentation of magistrates from New South Wales, compared with magistrates from other jurisdictions.

Findings from this phase of the research are published:

Mack, Kathy, Sharyn Roach Anleu and Jordan Tutton (2018) ‘The Judiciary and the Public: Judicial Perceptions’, Adelaide Law Review 39(1): 1-36.

Roach Anleu, Sharyn and Kathy Mack (2017) Performing Judicial Authority in the Lower Courts, London: Palgrave.

Mack, Kathy and Sharyn Roach Anleu (2013) ‘Skills for Judicial Work:  Comparing Women Judges and Women Magistrates’ in Ulrike Schultz and Gisela Shaw (eds) Gender and Judging, Oxford: Hart Publishing: 211-229.

Mack, Kathy and Sharyn Roach Anleu (2012) ‘Entering the Australian Judiciary: Gender and Court Hierarchy’ 34 (3) Law & Policy 313-347.

Mack, Kathy and Sharyn Roach Anleu (2011) ‘Everyday work in the magistrates courts:  Time and tasks’ 21 Journal of Judicial Administration 34-53.

Roach Anleu, Sharyn and Kathy Mack (2010) ‘The Work of the Australian Judiciary: Public and Judicial Attitudes’ 20 Journal of Judicial Administration 3-17.

More information about how this survey was:

Developing the second magistrates survey

The content of questions in the second magistrates survey was essentially the same as for the National Survey of Australian Judges. We chose to develop two separate questionnaires in 2007, one for the National Survey of Australian Judges and one for the second National Survey of Australian Magistrates.  While both are modelled on the first National Survey of Australian Magistrates sent in 2002, two separate surveys were required in 2007 so that each survey could contain questions and terminology appropriate to the specific level of the judiciary and to the distinctive nature of their work, as well as questions applicable across all levels of the judiciary.  Pilot testing of the second magistrates survey was not needed, in light of experience with the previous magistrates survey and the judges survey.

We continued to consult widely with the magistracy and used presentations to build support and interest and to maximise response. This was particularly directed to explaining the reasons for a second survey which were to enable comparison with the findings of the first survey and so map changes over time, and to combine with the results of the judges survey, to create a national picture of the entire Australian judiciary.

Administering the survey

Administering the survey involved essentially the same processes as for the first magistrates survey and for the judges survey:

  • Ethics approval was sought and obtained for the survey and for all supporting documentation.
  • Obtaining current names and court addresses of all magistrates from the courts, as our previous list was out of date.
  • It was again necessary to decide who would be included in the survey, and we attempted to replicate the same criteria used in the first survey.
  • Similar strategies for maximising response as in the first magistrates survey and the judges survey.

This phase of the research was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant (DP0665198).