On 8 March 2017 people from around the globe celebrated the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women with International Women’s Day.
First female Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
This occasion provides no better opportunity to recognise a historical moment for our nation with the swearing in of the first female Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia.
On 30 January 2017 Susan Kiefel was sworn in as Chief Justice of the High Court, replacing Chief Justice French.
Prior to her appointment as a Justice of the High Court in 2007 her Honour had been a judge of the Federal Court and served as part time commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission as well as sitting as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland.
Susan Kiefel left school at the age of fifteen, completing her high school studies part-time while working as a legal secretary. She then studied law part-time before being called to the Queensland Bar in 1975 at the age of 21.
Her appointment as Chief Justice marks the latest in a series of ‘firsts’ as she was also the first woman in Queensland to be appointed Queen’s Counsel (at the age of 33) and the first woman appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland.
She is one of three women who now sit on the High Court and said at the swearing in ceremony that the increase in female appointments recognises that “there are now women who have the necessary legal ability and experience, as well as the personal qualities, to be a justice of this court”.
Given the legal profession is still largely dominated by males her comments serve as important inspiration and a worthy reminder this past International Women’s Day that the legal profession does not have to be a “men’s only club”.