Judicial wellbeing.

Judicial work is demanding and carries the potential for both great satisfaction and stress. Acknowledging the reality of stress and building the capacity to manage it effectively are important aspects of judging well.

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. 

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    JUDICIAL LIFE

    Where stress presides: Investigating occupational stress within the Australian judiciary.

    This ground-breaking thesis by Carly Schrever examines the psychological well-being of Australian judicial officers through the first empirical research of its kind. The thesis investigates the nature, prevalence, causes, and consequences of judicial stress in Australia, addressing critical research questions in three comprehensive studies. This research will support the development of effective interventions to assist judicial officers in their challenging roles.
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    JUDICIAL LIFE

    The Psychological Impact of Judicial Work: Australia’s First Empirical Research Measuring Judicial Stress and Wellbeing

    This analysis, authored by Carly Schrever, Carol Hulbert, and Tania Sourdin, examines how stress can manifest in judicial office based on survey results from judicial officers from five Australian courts. 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.
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    JUDICIAL LIFE

    Where stress presides: Predictors and correlates of stress among Australian judges and magistrates

    This analysis of survey results from judicial officers from five Australian courts, authored by Carly Schrever, Carol Hulbert, and Tania Sourdin, 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.
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    JUDICIAL LIFE

    The privilege and the pressure: Judges’ and magistrates’ reflections on the sources and impacts of stress in judicial work

    This study authored by Carly Schrever, Carol Hulbert, and Tania Sourdin explores the sources and impacts of stress among Australian judges and magistrates through thematic analysis of 59 in-depth interviews with judicial officers from five Australian courts, representing the largest scale interview study of judicial stress ever conducted. It highlights key themes and proposes strategies for better management within the judiciary.
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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. 

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    JUDICIAL LIFE

    A fragile bastion: UNSW judicial traumatic stress study

    Researchers 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.
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    JUDICIAL LIFE

    Cumulative Trauma and Stress as a Judicial Officer

    In 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.
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    JUDICIAL LIFE

    Making Wellness Core Business

    This 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. 
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    JUDICIAL LIFE

    Lifting the Judicial Veil – Vicarious Trauma, PTSD and the Judiciary a personal story

    Magistrate 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.
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    JUDICIAL LIFE

    Towards Wellbeing: How to be a Human Being and a Lawyer too

    Judge Felicity Hampel discusses the wellbeing of County Court judges and what it means to be both a lawyer and a human being in this Tristen Jepson Memorial Foundation Annual Lecture.
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    JUDICIAL LIFE

    Judges' Well-Being and the Importance of Meaningful Work

    Researchers 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.
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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