The new Newcastle Courthouse Complex


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After 3 years of construction, the Newcastle Courthouse Complex opened on Monday, 15 February 2016 with the first hearing taking place on Monday, 22 February 2016. In this article, Susan Moran, Principal of our dispute resolution team, provides an update on the Newcastle Courthouse Complex which opened on Monday, 15 February 2016.

We were fortunate to attend a private guided tour of the Courthouse Complex hosted by Project Director, Roger Payne of APP, shortly before the building was handed over to the government.


Approaching the Complex, one can’t help but be captivated by the vast and unique artwork on its façade shown in the photograph [above/below]. Local artist, Brett McMahon, designed the large panels of Glass Reinforced Concrete which he entitled ‘Melaleuca’. His statement about the work explains:

Pre-colonial settlement, the Hunter River’s banks extended inland as sandy river flats, populated by native species including melaleuca ericifolia, commonly known as the swamp paperbark.

Paperbark trees have always fascinated me and I have often referred to them in my work – bark textures informing collage works, and gnarled branch inspired drawings.

Both these elements are featured in the courthouse work, bark referenced in the textured panels on Burwood St, and the network of branches form ‘Melaleuca’ on Hunter St.

Each modular panel is identical, with design variation achieved by the rotation and placement of adjoining panels.

The depicted network of trunks, branches and twigs also provides a meditation on the connections between individuals and the structures of a civil society.

The work is distinctly Novocastrian and an impressive accomplishment for the talented artist.


On entering the Complex, one is struck by its innovative design. The various waiting areas offer magnificent harbour and city views which are accompanied by a flood of natural light courtesy of the glass atrium roof and large glass panels on the walls. The bright and open design is a welcome change from the traditional Courthouses of the past.

Designed by Cox Richardson Architects and constructed by John Holland, the building is cleverly configured to provide different spaces for opposing parties, jury members and the public. It offers vastly improved disability access as well as state of the art technology which will undoubtedly enhance the court’s efficiency and capability.

While the Courthouse remains a location that most people hope to avoid, the new facility will significantly improve court services in the Hunter region. It will also offer a welcome kick start to the “Justice Precinct” on Hunter Street that will be completed by the University of Newcastle’s NeW Space building which is currently under construction and is due for completion in 2019.

We are extremely grateful to the team at APP for providing us the opportunity to learn about the construction feats achieved in the Complex and we congratulate the APP team as well as everyone else involved in the project.

The litigation team, led in Newcastle by Susan Moran, is looking forward to working in the Courthouse Complex and experiencing one of the “most technologically advanced court facilit[ies] outside Sydney”.  Our litigation team advise on disputes across a broad range of areas including corporate, consumer, building and construction insolvency and employment law.

This article is not legal advice.  It is intended to provide commentary and general information only.  Access to this article does not entitle you to rely on it as legal advice.  You should obtain formal legal advice specific to your own situation.  Please contact us if you require advice on matters covered by this article.