Honour and Hard Work: His Honour Judge Pardeep Tiwana

Newly appointed His Honour Judge Pardeep Tiwana has achieved a momentous feat on his elevation to the County Court of Victoria, Criminal Division – the first Indian Australian to accomplish this noteworthy triumph.

G’day India’s CEO, Tonee Sethi, recently met with Judge Tiwana to offer his congratulations and acknowledged, “…you reached where not many people can reach.” Judge Tiwana, a gently-spoken and well-mannered gentleman, replied a humble thank you: “It’s a new beginning, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to carry it out to a high standard in accordance with the oath of office that I have taken.”

The calmness behind Judge Tiwana’s demeanour signifies a man of confidence and ambition. He admits his long and dignified career in criminal law has been hard work, and his dedication to law has helped him achieve where only a few can succeed. His Honour shares, “Fortunately, I have been given this immense privilege to serve the community in this very important role.”

Pardeep with wife Amandeep Tiwana

Although “Law has been a constant” for Judge Tiwana, it did not start with adolescent ambition, but curiosity won in the end. “I was very laid back and immature. I was a daydreamer,” he admits. “I did have an interest in films, Indian cinema, and I did see myself involved in some way in the Indian film industry. But, ultimately, I did end up studying law. I had a cousin who was a lawyer, and I thought it might be interesting. It wasn’t really until I started my degree that I developed an interest to become a barrister.”

Born in England and brought up in Birmingham, he is very proud of his Indian Sikh background. He explains that his grandfather and father came to England in the 1960s from Punjab, India, via Singapore. Judge Tiwana studied law at the University of Wolverhampton and graduated with First Class Honours. He practised as a barrister at the Birmingham Bar for over a decade before moving to Australia.

In 2006, he moved to Melbourne with his wife and two young children. Judge Tiwana underwent further legal studies at Melbourne University before practising in criminal law as a defence barrister until his appointment to the County Court of Victoria last year. He reveals, “I’ve had a very long and satisfying career as a barrister persuading judges to follow a particular path or make a certain decision on the law or to pass a particular sentence. I’ve also persuaded juries arguing why my clients should be acquitted. Now, of course, I’m on the other side; it is a complete role reversal.”

Although His Honour is conscious of the responsibilities of his new appointment, he shares, “There is a sense of nervousness; there’s a sense of excitement and a sense of doing my best.” Judge Tiwana admits that working for the Victorian County Court is great. He also finds solace and support within the close-knit team, “I’m very fortunate to have fantastic colleagues. My brother and sister judges are a source of comfort. I know that there is help around me, whenever I need it, which is a lot when you are just starting out.”

Judge Tiwana’s daily grind revolves around what most people consider highly stressful. He elaborates, “I hear serious criminal cases relating to all sorts of offending – drugs, sexual allegations, dishonesty, violence, fraud, offences involving death on our roads – culpable driving. My tasks include sentencing offenders who plead guilty or who are found guilty. I hear appeals from the magistrate’s court against sentence and conviction. I also sit in criminal trials involving a jury. In a trial, essentially, my role is to oversee the hearing; to ensure it is conducted fairly and in accordance with the law.”

What keeps Judge Tiwana humble also motivates him to succeed in a meaningful career with integrity and ethics. He enlightens us with his constant personal reminder of the five virtues of Sikhism, “They are important and very close to my heart: Sat, Daya, Santokh, Nimrata and Pyaar.” These virtues translated are truth, contentment, compassion, humility and love.

Pardeep with wife Amandeep Tiwana

Judge Tiwana has received hundreds of good wishes since his official appointment. Messages from family, friends and the wider community from here and abroad. He remembers fondly, “When I was appointed last year, the appointment was clearly met with a lot of excitement. The family were over the moon. Many Indian background lawyers, here, India and other countries whom I did not know, sent messages on social media.”

The admiration and respect did not stop there. Judge Tiwana’s appointment has ignited praise and activated a dedicated following from those who regard him as a role model. “I also received lots of messages from young students who aspire to forge a career in law: messages saying that my appointment was an inspiration to them,” he says. “So, those messages brought home to me the fact that my appointment is important, particularly for the younger generation who are embarking upon a legal career. I realise they will inevitably look up to me and say we can do what Judge Tiwana has done.”

The basis of His Honour’s new appointment signifies the importance of diversity. He states, “Diversity is important because it sends out a strong message that we are all equal. We’re all Australian, despite being from different cultural backgrounds.”

Judge Tiwana has some words of wisdom of his own for those interested in pursuing a career in law. He advises, “The legal profession can be very rewarding, but also at the same time tough. You need to work hard throughout university, and the hard work continues when you enter the profession. In fact, it never ends. Reputations are difficult to build but very easy to destroy, particularly in this profession. So, it’s important that you perform your work with the utmost integrity and ethically.”

Another aspect influencing caring for the community and law is the Covid-19 pandemic. He remarks, “The legal profession has been significantly impacted. For a very long time, the courts were not able to conduct jury trials, and the county court is the main trial court.” However, non-trial work proceeded because “the court was very swift to develop an online hearing system, and it has worked very well and continues to work well”.

Recognising the pressures of his work, Judge Tiwana is grateful for the upside, the allotment of generous holidays. He loves to spend time with the family, travel (Covid-permitting), dining out, movies, cricket and barracking for his favourite team – “the doggies”. He appreciates quiet reflection and gym workouts and keeps up-to-date with Indian politics.

Judge Tiwana has plenty of work ahead of him, even dedicating his weekends during his transition from barrister to judge. Also, the Indian community has invited him to speak at events, such as Diwali functions and the Sikh Faith Family Violence Prevention Project. His words and actions have won the community’s trust because, for them, “the confidence of knowing that those who are making these important decisions affecting livelihoods represent the wider community in which we live”.

We wish His Honour Judge Pardeep Tiwana a rewarding and successful career on the bench.

 By Agata Zema