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Tales from practice: upside down justice

17 November 2006

Even though we were in the land of kangaroos, this was no kangaroo court. In the calm of a modern courtroom on the third floor of the Federal Magistrates Court Building in Australia, Federal Magistrate Burchardt was listening to difficult cases involving the problems that arise when families split up.

Like many buildings in Melbourne, the Court Building has been designed with a flourish. This is a city where anything goes. You are as likely to come across a giant marble purse or a sculpture of a cow upside down in a tree as you are a conventional shopping mall. Even though Australia has an area the size of the US and a population of only 20 million people rattling around in it, Melbourne, the capital of Victoria in the south of the country, is spiked with skyscrapers and has a skyline to rival New York. Millions have been spent on daring designs – a vast office block that looks like a Rubik’s cube, buildings that make you go cross-eyed (even when sober) and a strange col...

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