NCCPS Expert Advisory Panel

Barbara Holborow

Ex-Children's Court Magistrate and Child Expert

— Barbara Holborow

Barbara was the first woman recipient in Australia of the Jean Harris award for promoting the development and progress of Women and Children’s issues in Australia. This is the highest award given by Rotary both in Australia and internationally.

In July 1997 at the Entertainment Awards in Sydney, Barbara received the Variety Club of Australia’s Humanitarian Award, once again this award is the highest acknowledgment given by Variety both in Australia and internationally.

Barbara’s life was relatively uneventful until she was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 13. In April 2003 she was awarded the Kellion Victory medal from Diabetes Australia for surviving 60 years of Type 1 Diabetes. Self discipline then became the catch-cry of her life. After leaving school, working as a legal secretary, marrying and having her family, Barbara decided to put her discipline to the test and at the age of 32, began to study law.

Barbara graduated from Sydney University and went immediately into private practice in Glebe. At that time Glebe was the working man’s suburb and it was here she honed her courtroom skills.

Always interested in children’s rights, Barbara was integral in the establishment of free legal aid for all children in 1973. From then on she championed the cause of children, working almost exclusively in the Children’s Courts. Barbara despaired at the inadequacy of the justice system as it related to children. She fought to bring about changes and is proud of what she achieved.

In 1982 Barbara Holborow was appointed to the Bench where she remained as a Children’s Court Magistrate in Sydney for twelve years. She spent a good part of her magisterial career presiding over the toughest children’s courts. Every day she viewed life as few people have witnessed it. She saw the abused and the abusers, the pathetic, the humorous and the tragic. She had great moments and horrid moments, dealing not only with children, but also the adults who were their parents, their protectors, their friends and sometimes their enemies.

Barbara was instrumental in setting up the only Care Court in Australia, matters involving crime were not heard at the Care Court, and it was devoted solely to the hearing of complaints of the neglect of children.

Barbara’s opinions are regularly sought by the media – she was a familiar face on The Midday Show and appears on The Today Show, Today Tonight, 7.30 Report, 4 Corners, A Current Affair and had her own segment on Radio 2GB. For six years Barbara wrote a weekly column for That’s Life Magazine entitled Emotionally Yours. Readers responded from all over Australia.

During her time on the Bench Barbara opened her court to the cameras of ’60 Minutes’, thereby giving countless numbers of people the opportunity to witness and experience a world, that with any luck they would never become involved. It was these two appearances that received the public’s greatest response, the first being ‘Barbara�s Law’ followed by the emotionally charged ‘Barbara’s Verdict’, as well as appearing in a Channel 7 documentary on the plight of the Aborigines – ‘Kempsey Real Life’.

Barbara currently writes a column for the magazine Take 5, which tells of her experiences on the Bench.

In 2002 Barbara received an OAM in recognition of her work with children and their families.

Barbara’s life has been enriched with many stories, many of which are told in her published books about her years on the Bench.

Her first book, ‘Those Tracks on My Face’ is at times gritty and heartbreaking, but you will marvel at the courage and honour of this remarkable woman who continues to lobby so hard for justice for Australia’s children. Barbara believes things will only get worse for troubled kids. She believes that government departments responsible for children’s welfare will never receive the resources they need, the public isn’t often interested, because juvenile justice has always been heard, but rarely seen.

Her second book, ‘Kids: Loving for Life’ looks closely at the way children are reared – at drugs, child abuse, the effect of violent videos and how important it is to keep young offenders out of the adult criminal system for as long as possible. This second book ‘Kids: Loving for Life’ was published in April, 1999 and quickly went into a second edition.

Her third book ‘The Good, The Bad and the Inevitable’ is a series of short stories. The humorous stories display Barbara’s sense of fun mingled with her total commitment to children and their family.

On a more personal note, Barbara has fostered eight children over the years, her daughter Louise is now married with her own family, her aboriginal son Jacob lives with Barbara in Sydney.

Barbara’s opinions are highly respected and she is a sought after speaker, addressing audiences from all sectors of the community – both corporate and private to deliver her inspirational, emotionally charged and thought provoking message.

Barbara is Patron of 9 Children’s charities and believes that every child is the responsibility of everybody. Barbara is also an Australia Day Ambassador.

In July 1997 at the Entertainment Awards in Sydney, Barbara received the Variety Club of Australia’s Humanitarian Award, once again this award is the highest acknowledgment given by Variety both in Australia and internationally.

Go to Barbara Holborow’s website

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