Perth’s oldest building, The Old Court House, is one of Western Australia’s most significant cultural heritage sites. From its principal function as a court house, to its cultural role as the main social and civic hub of early colonial life, this small building now operates as the Old Court House Law Museum and is open for everyone to explore and be amazed.
The 1836 Old Court House building, located on Whadjuk Noongar Boodjar, is a clear manifestation of the doctrine of terra nullius upon which the colony was founded. It symbolises the imposition of the British legal system upon Aboriginal peoples who practiced, and continue to practice, their own established systems of law.
As a contemporary Museum, we collect, conserve and interpret Western Australia’s legal and social histories from the past to the present.
This significant building and Museum have big stories to share; we invite you to help bring these stories to the world.
The Old Court House Law Museum’s mission is to:
The Museum has a role in the global discussion concerning the relationship of colonialism to the rule of law and its contribution to systemic discrimination, the impacts of which is still evident today.
Ways you can Support Our Work
Volunteer at the Museum
Saturdays and Sundays
Shifts available: 9.45am -1:15pm and 12.45pm – 4:15pm
Join our growing group of volunteers who make a valuable contribution to Visitor Experience and Museum projects!
You do not have to be expert in the law, history, or architecture. We will guide and support you while you learn about this historic building and its unique collections. To become a volunteer, you must be:
- 18 years or older
- Have a friendly and helpful attitude
- Be reliable, able to work in a team, and to comply with Museum policies
- Be able to work with minimal supervision.
Volunteer positions at Old Court House Law Museum are unpaid. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire.
Donate to the Museum
The Museum has charitable and Deductible Gift Recipient status and is governed by the Old Court House Law Museum Trust Foundation Committee.
Your Support will be directed to the three key areas of focus:
Your tax deductable donation will enable us to care for the oldest building in Perth, support us to grow and digitise our collection, energise the creation of new and exciting exhibitions and provide access to country kids through our education resources
Expand Accessibility to the Museum
There is demonstrated demand to visit the Museum. Our aim of extending opening hours from Tuesday to Friday to now include weekends, will allow a whole segment of the community, including families, to access the oldest building in Perth and its collection of international significance.
Extending the Museum opening hours to weekends expands opportunities for local, interstate and international visitors to access this significant Western Australian cultural heritage site.
Providing free access six days a week is a catalyst towards:
- shifting the Museum from being a hidden treasure; and
- expanding the reach and impact of the Museum.
Please donate if you would like to see the Museum continue to remain open and free to all at the weekends in 2024/25 and beyond.
Ensure the Collection Reaches a Wider Audience
The Museum collection is deemed to be of State, National and International significance.
Digitising the Museum collection to make it more accessible online, will create an opportunity for the Museum to reach a wider audience and will democratise access to, and expand the reach of, the collection.
“The Museum collection is nationally significant for its close inter-relationship with and direct provenance to the building, its functions, communities and people whose history the collections embody, and the exhibitions interpret.”¹
The Old Court House Law Museum’s new virtual tour and the increasing digital visitation demonstrates that, whilst nothing can beat seeing collection items and a museum up close in person, contemporary museums and their collections need to be, and benefit from being, accessible online.
Our digitisation project has three elements:
- In the immediate term bringing our significant collection, The Burt Family Collection and other significant items to life and online
- In the medium to long-term digitisation of the entire Museum collection
- Moving the collection database to an improved cloud-based platform.
¹ Dr Joanna Sassoon, Statement of Significance of the Old Court House Law Museum, Perth, March 2019, p. 4.
Please donate if you would like to see the Museum reach a wider audience through our digitisation projects.
Judge’s Chamber: Re-design and Install
The redesign and install of the Judge’s Chamber gallery will further public access to Western Australia’s legal and social history through the curation of interpretive display content that utilises a diverse range of voices and is inclusive of past and contemporary legal and social injustices. It is intended to update interpretation and better display significant items which will elevate the presentations in the Gallery including:
- The production of a short film (5-10 minutes) on traditional Aboriginal law to acknowledge and affirm that Aboriginal Peoples in Western Australia had, and still have, a complex system of law and social order that existed long before the establishment of British law in Western Australia.
- Conservation of an item that holds high state and national cultural heritage significance, a desktop writing slope box compendium that belonged to William Henry Mackie, the first judicial appointee in the Swan River colony.