The High Court of Australia is a building where the form truly reflects the function. It is 40 metres tall with a façade of gleaming white concrete and great inscrutable glass panels. It is a building which speaks of power and authority. And well it might. This is the place where, legally speaking, the buck stops.
The High Court of Australia is the highest court in the Australian judicial system. Here, the law of Australia is interpreted and applied; cases of special federal significance, including challenges to the constitutional validity of laws, are decided; and appeals, by special leave, from federal, state and territory courts are heard.
Seven Justices, including, and headed by a Chief Justice, preside over its three courtrooms. Each courtroom is quite different, both in style and purpose.
Courtroom One is large and lavish; it is furnished and panelled in native timbers, with symbolically adorned doors. Past justices gaze stonily down from portraits on the walls. The most striking piece in this courtroom, and possibly in all three, is the magnificent tapestry banner, showing the badges of the states and the crest of the Commonwealth. Courtroom One is used on ceremonial occasions and when the full bench of seven justices are required to sit.
Courtroom Two is generally used when a bench of five justices is sitting. Applications for leave to appeal by video-link are also heard in this plain unassuming room.
Courtroom Three is furnished with coachwood timber and flooded with light from a glass ceiling. Matters here are generally heard by a single justice. It was in Courtroom Three that the Mabo case was heard and a portrait on the wall shows the presiding Justice holding the Mabo settlement document in his hand.
In addition to the three courtrooms, the High Court of Australia has an administrative wing, an area for the Justices and a large, stunning public hall.