THIRTY years after being posted to Gunnedah for a ‘two-year stay’ Russell Swanson is calling ‘time’ on a career in the town he now calls home.
During his three decades as Local Court Registrar, Russell has seen changes sweep through the court system, from simple things such as the replacement of the manual “clunker” typewriters and carbon paper, lugging around the voluminous births, deaths and marriage registers and being made acutely aware (on a regular basis) of not making too many STD (straight through dial) calls and photocopies, to the rise of the computer.
“I suppose it is like any government department or industry, much has changed over the past 30 years especially with the introduction of technology – computers, the internet and everything that involves,” said Russell.
Russell began his career with the Department in Singleton in October, 1980. He returned to his hometown of Wollongong for two years before applying for Gunnedah and Manilla, a posting he planned for two to three years before heading back to the coast.
He came to Gunnedah as a Grade 3 clerk under the watchful eye of Clerk of Petty Sessions, Michael Hinchey.
Gunnedah was quickly to become home for Russell, wife Jeanette and daughters, Anna and Elizabeth.
“We gradually fell in love with the place and after a couple of years Jeanette also worked on a temporary basis for the Department. Michael Hinchey was a great mentor, he had forgotten more about the law than most thought they knew and he was a wonderful character.”
When Mick, as he was known, retired in 1996, Russell took over the top job.
“Over the years there has been many changes with of course the rise of the computer, being the most profound.
“We now have JusticeLink which encompasses the entire State and that has made the job so much easier.
“There is also a welcome reduction in agency work – such as registering and supplying births, deaths and marriage forms and many other tasks that have been simplified by technology. This has not always been welcome and is a mixed blessing as I would have actually preferred to have kept some of them.
“The Clerk of Petty Sessions (CPS) was once looked upon as the font of all knowledge but now there are so many other departments and avenues for people to obtain assistance and advice.”
Russell said he loved his job because he was always intrigued by the law and the way the system worked, particularly the criminal and civil jurisdictions.
Over the years he has seen other changes, such as the growth of apprehended violence orders (AVO) – a way of confronting domestic and personal violence issues.
“There has been a remarkable increase in the number of AVOs coming through the system which is disappointing in one way but it does provide an avenue for people to obtain protection when there has been violence or a real fear of violence,” Russell added.
Russell also laments the removal of District Court sittings from the smaller towns such as Gunnedah.
“There was a real buzz and excitement when the District Court sat every month. The barristers would come to town and there was a certain amount of pomp and ceremony.
“It was a different atmosphere and of course it was good for the town’s economy with so many people staying at motels and spending their money.”
Travel, golf and volunteer work now loom large on Russell and Jeanette’s plans in retirement.
“Anna lives in London so we hope to visit and I would like to play more golf as well as do some volunteer work. I hope I have helped the community during my time.”
FINAL day. Registrar of Gunnedah Local Court Russell Swanson retired last Thursday after 30 years in the job.
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