Old Newspapers Discovered During Construction of ACT’s New Court Building Reflect Bygone Era

Treasures uncovered during the construction of the ACT’s new Supreme Court building reflect a bygone era — when Robert Menzies was the prime minister and women had their own section in the newspaper.

Trials in the new building are less than six months away after an ongoing $165 million overhaul of the court building, including eight new courtrooms.

But contract manager Sean Egan said during construction, workers uncovered treasures from more than 50 years ago in the building’s foundations.

He said newspapers from 1965 and 1966 were found amongst the rubble — possibly left behind by tradesmen who had snuck away for a smoke break.

Mr Egan said it was an interesting delve back into Canberra’s history, including traditions of a bygone era with a three-page fold-out section exclusively for women.

The new ACT Supreme Court building under construction.

But he said some things, like people committing crimes and facing court, remained the same.

“A 27-year-old truck driver alleged to have stolen two fowls from a refrigerator at the Kingston Guest House early on New Year’s Day was the first defendant to be committed to the ACT Supreme Court for 1966,” a page in the Canberra Times paper from January 5, 1966, read.

Mr Egan said parts of the newspaper would be framed and placed on display in the new court along with judges’ chamber signs, which were also salvaged from the building.

“We haven’t really found a location for that yet, but there are a few spots … where we can put in interesting artefacts or heritage items,” Mr Egan said.

Old wooden name plates list the names of judges from the ACT Supreme Court.

Tunnels to link Magistrates and Supreme courts

Mr Egan said the new buildings would also continue a true Canberra tradition of going underground.

A tunnel from the Supreme Court building will link back to the Magistrates Court.

“There’s tunnels for jurors, tunnels for judges [but] there is no tunnel to the police station as everyone seems to think,” he said.

It is hoped those tunnels will avoid the current problem of jurors, judges and those accused of crimes coming face to face in the foyer.

Construction of the new courts began in April 2016, and Mr Egan said once the building “came out of the ground” it “travelled amazingly quickly”.

The new courts are expected to be operational by April 2018.