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25 August 2014


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Before the redoubtable Drew Pingo took his place upon the bench at the 1960's built Popondetta Court House, he was preceded by to other ex-kiaps.

The first was the splendidly erudite, marvellously hospitable and rather rotund Chris Day. The second was the equally erudite but marginally less rotund Harley Dickinson, who went on to become a member of the Legislative Council in Victoria.

Both were pragmatic, culturally aware, generally kind and very fair magistrates who enjoyed local respect.

I am sorry to have missed Drew on the bench. His lively intelligence, dry wit and droll manner would have added something to the court.

As for the old building itself, it is best described as an architectural oddity, like something from the set of a Batman movie.

It had a curious and rather impractical angular roof line, looking something like a collapsed heap of triangular shapes. From what little I can see of the new building, it seems to have taken its architectural cues from the old one. Whether this is a good thing is, I think, a matter of judgement.

I reckon Drew might have said a few words about it though.

It was a great thing last September to see again the court house (the one on the left) in which my father sat as a resident magistrate all those years ago in the mid 70's.

The new facilities are impressive and I'm sure it is money well spent, although I heard when in Popondetta it is difficult to attract a District Court Magistrate permanently to Oro owing to the standard of available accommodation, hampering regular sittings of the courts.

Hopefully this has changed since my visit.

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