Legal professions around the world have traditionally been highly stressful, while denying the existence of that stress. These days, we recognise judicial officers must manage a variety of stressors:
- large caseloads
- professional isolation
- intense scrutiny
- engagement with highly traumatic material.
Given the impact of judicial decisions in people’s lives, and the pivotal role judicial officers play in our democratic system, courts arguably have a duty not only to individual judges, but to the wider community, to investigate and promote judicial wellbeing.
This curated collection of resources aims to support judicial officers’ understanding of their own wellbeing, and the individual and systemic factors that affect judicial stress.
The College’s Judicial wellbeing: in conversation podcast series also explores the pressures and demands of judicial work.
The College has worked in partnership with researchers from the University of Melbourne’s School of Psychological Sciences since 2015 to identify possible interventions that could be implemented to support judicial officers to manage stress in their roles. This research has focused on the nature, prevalence and severity of judicial stress in Australia, and the factors that promote and undermine wellbeing in the judicial environment. The research project has surveyed 152 judicial officers to measure different forms of stress, including psychological distress, depressive and anxious symptoms, burnout, secondary traumatic stress, and alcohol use. In addition, 60 judicial officers participated in detailed interviews exploring experiences and perceived sources of stress. The following resources provide detailed findings from this research.
The Psychological Impact of Judicial Work: Australia’s First Empirical Research Measuring Judicial Stress and WellbeingThis analysis of survey results from judicial officers from five Australian courts examines how stress can manifest in judicial office. It compares the data with existing analysis of the Australia legal profession and the general population, which shows that the judicial system is under considerable stress, but not yet in a crisis.
External LinkJUDICIAL LIFE
Where stress presides: Predictors and correlates of stress among Australian judges and magistratesThis analysis of survey results from judicial officers from five Australian courts examines which judicial officers are most stressed and why. It examines the demographic data in the survey where the only variable reliably associated with stress was jurisdiction, with Magistrates experiencing higher levels of judicial stress than judges of the higher courts.
The College has curated the following selection of further resources on judicial stress, which provide a breadth of research and important information on this crucial topic.
A fragile bastion: UNSW judicial traumatic stress studyResearchers from the University of New South Wales conducted a survey on judicial stress with New South Wales judicial officers. The study found high levels of stress, including indicators of PTSD and the effects of vicarious trauma and vilification.
External LinkJUDICIAL LIFE
Cumulative Trauma and Stress as a Judicial OfficerIn this address to Queensland Magistrates, Chief Justice Bowskill discusses the research and written on traumatic stress among judicial officers and then shares her ideas on how individual judicial officers and the courts can work with this knowledge to support judicial wellbeing.
External LinkJUDICIAL LIFE
Making Wellness Core BusinessThis address by Chief Justice Ferguson makes the strong case for a whole-of-profession response to the issue of stress and mental illness within the legal profession. This would involve all legal workplaces, including the courts, treating wellbeing as core business.
Lifting the Judicial Veil – Vicarious Trauma, PTSD and the Judiciary a personal storyMagistrate David Heilpern of the NSW Local Court shares an open and honest account of his personal experience of vicarious trauma while on the bench, and discusses surrounding issues, including the language of judicial wellbeing, the systemic sources of judicial stress, and the need for research.
Judges' Well-Being and the Importance of Meaningful WorkResearchers Anne Brafford and Robert Rebele discuss how to support judicial wellbeing through strategies to enhance meaning and purpose in judicial work – in particularly, evidence-based techniques for building experiences of Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness, which are known predict judicial wellbeing.
This is an exclusive free and confidential 24/7 counselling service which provides support to Victorian judicial officers in managing challenges and opportunities relating to your psychological wellbeing. Endorsed by the Courts Council, the FBG Group provide a team of experienced clinicians provide short term counselling for a range of personal and professional reasons such as:
- family issues
- work challenges
- interpersonal conflict
- managing the impact of significant life events.
These sessions do not always need to be problem focused. They can also be used for wellbeing coaching to help enhance and enable you to truly flourish – both in and outside of work.
Face-to-face appointments can be scheduled between the hours of 8am to 8pm on weekdays or by telephone 24/7. You are entitled to up to 4 sessions for each issue or challenge.
To find out more about the program or to book an appointment, contact the Judicial Officers’ Assistance Program on 1300 326 941.