A long serving Wollongong magistrate has confronted the devastating fallout from mental illness more than anyone should have to.
Robert Walker lost his nephews, Michael and Sean, to suicide after their long battles with schizophrenia.
"My brother was destroyed by the death of his two boys ... he died quickly by cancer after that," Mr Walker said.
It was Mr Walker's understanding of such complex illnesses that allowed him to help people who appeared before him in NSW courts for the last 23 years.
"Quite often people's parents had come into court and they'd had this look on their faces. I had that look on my own face when I used to look after Michael," the Stanwell Park resident said.
"As a magistrate I understood what their son or daughter was going through because they're the people that have to live with this affliction ... and it's the most horrible thing.
"I always explained they needed to make sure they maintain their medication and it wasn't their fault they were doing what they were doing."
In a break from tradition, the bar table in a Wollongong courtroom had a spread of party pies, sandwiches, and sweets to mark Mr Walker's retirement on September 21, the day before he celebrated his 78th birthday.
Mr Walker worked as long as he was legally allowed, the mandatory retirement age for magistrates being 75 years. He was then appointed acting magistrate for a further three years.
"I never thought I'd be retiring ... I'm still as fit as when I was in my 20s," the keen surfer quipped.
Despite facing personal hardship, Mr Walker retained his humour and sharp wit, on and off the bench.
"I've always been a happy person, despite having a pretty tragic time in the last few years," he said.
"Losing my son (Bret) was the biggest thing that ever happened in my life. I don't think I'll ever get over that."
As he hung up the robes for good, Mr Walker reflected on the good, the bad - and the plain bizarre - he witnessed daily. Shoplifting out of need has only become more prevalent as the cost of living continues to skyrocket, he said.
Domestic violence has also increased. Mr Walker commonly cited a case that involved a man who exercised repeated coercive control over a woman before he eventually killed her with a baseball bat on the street.
"I brought that up all the time because it shocked people ... and they needed to be shocked because they don't understand how easy it is for people to go and kill someone," he said.
"Look at the number of women who have been killed. That's horrible."
Mr Walker said biggest change that has swept through courts in recent years are sovereign citizens who hold up proceedings with "ridiculous arguments".
"They sort of just came out after COVID. It's just mind blowing ... but these are the types of things you have to put up with now," he said.
Mr Walker was born in Sydney in 1945. It was just after World War II and his parents were finding it "difficult to survive".
His family lived in public housing until he was five. They moved to New Guinea for his father's work, where he melted aircraft used in the war.
They arrived back in Australia a few years later and moved to the "idyllic" Sawtell on the Mid North Coast, where Mr Walker fell in love with surfing and lived off the fish his mother caught daily.
He looked back on his childhood there as "the most beautiful part of my life".
Mr Walker started off as a PDHPE teacher before he watched his brother, Frank, become the youngest Attorney-General at the time and thought he would "have a crack at law" too.
He got his first job as a clerk in the divorce office on Macquarie Street then became a deputy registrar of the Supreme Court. Mr Walker spent five years at the Industrial Relations Court before the Howard Government abolished it in 2016.
"I went from having a great job travelling around Australia to nothing," he said.
A few years later Mr Walker applied to become a magistrate. He was appointed to the role in 2000 and enjoyed a fulfilling career.
Mr Walker plans to spend his retirement surfing, camping and spearfishing - and joked that he might even sit in the back of courtrooms and yell "I'm a sovereign citizen".