Ballarat woman and former Loreto student Sara Hinchey has been announced as the next State Coroner for Victoria just six months after being appointed to the County Court bench.
Judge Hinchey was announced in the role on Tuesday following the retirement of Judge Ian Gray.
Judge Hinchey spoke to The Courier after being appointed to the bench in May, after almost 20 years as a barrister.
She said it was an honour to serve Victoria with the County Court.
“I was so honoured and excited to be approached and even considered for (a seat on the County Court bench),” she said.
As Coroner she will oversee inquests into deaths and fires, in order to find the causes and “contribute to the reduction of the number of preventable deaths and fires”, according to the Coroners Act.
Recommendations from Coroners Court inquests have frequently led to law changes.
Judge Hinchey appeared before two royal commissions as a barrister and Attorney-General Martin Pakula said her previous experience as Counsel Assisting the Coroner was one factor that made her an “outstanding candidate”.
She has appeared before the Coroners Court for inquests into the Kerang Rail Disaster, the Broughton Hall Nursing Home deaths and the triple fatality in the Burnley Tunnel.
“Judge Hinchey is a highly experienced lawyer and advocate, and has significant expertise in inquisitorial proceedings,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
“I congratulate Judge Hinchey on her appointment as Victoria’s new State Coroner and look forward to her continued contribution to the Victorian justice system.”
“I would also like to extend my thanks to Ian Gray for his service and commitment as the State Coroner and previously the Chief Magistrate.”
Judge Gray served as State Coroner since 2012, and before that was the Chief Magistrate for a decade.
Judge Hinchey opened up on some of her broader interests in May, telling The Courier about her passion for the arts and her time as a Ballarat Foto Biennale board member.
“I did music and art at school and my mother’s an artist, she’s also a guide at the Ballarat art gallery,” she said.
“I thought (the Foto Biennale) was a fantastic thing for Ballarat.
“I wasn’t particularly a photographer at the time but through this I came to love photography as an art form.”
Judge Hinchey also has a deep interest in food, running classes on find and cooking truffles under the name the ‘Truffle Hound’.