Ceremonial Sitting of the Full Court
For the Swearing in and Welcome of the Honourable Justice Perry
Transcript of proceedings
THE HONOURABLE JAMES ALLSOP AO, CHIEF JUSTICE
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE JACOBSON
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE BENNETT AO
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE EDMONDS
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE RARES
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE COWDROY OAM
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE BESANKO
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE FLICK
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE PERRAM
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE JAGOT
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE NICHOLAS
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE YATES
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE KATZMANN
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE GRIFFITHS
THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE PERRY
9.31 AM, MONDAY, 23 SEPTEMBER 2013
PERRY J: Chief Justice, I have the Honour to announce that I have received a commission from Her Excellency, the Governor-General, appointing me judge of the Federal Court of Australia. I now present my commission.
ALLSOP CJ: Thank you, Justice Perry. District Registrar, please read the commission aloud.
Commission of appointment of a judge of the Federal Court of Australia.
I, Quentin Bryce, AC CVO, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, and under section 72 of the Constitution, and subsection 6(1) of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976, appoint Dr Melissa Anne Perry, one of Her Majesty’s Counsel, to be judge of the Federal Court of Australia, assigned to the Sydney registry, beginning on 23 September 2013, until she attains the age of 70 years.
Signed and sealed with the Great Seal of Australia on the fifth day of August 2013, Quentin Bryce, Governor-General, by Her Excellency’s command, Mark Dreyfus QC, Attorney-General.
ALLSOP CJ: Justice Perry, I now invite you to take the oath of office.
PERRY J: I, Melissa Anne Perry, do swear that I will bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law, that I will well and truly serve her in the Office of Judge of the Federal Court of Australia, and that I will do right to all manner of people according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill will. So help me God.
ALLSOP CJ: I now invite you to subscribe to the oath that you have just taken. District Registrar, please take the oath and the commission for their subscription in the records of the court. Congratulations, Justice Perry. On behalf of all the judges of the Court, judges here and all around Australia, I warmly welcome you to the Federal Court of Australia. Ms Bishop.
MS B. BISHOP MP: Chief Justice, distinguished guests, it’s a great privilege to be here today on behalf of the Australian Government, to welcome the Honourable Justice Melissa Perry to the Bench of the Federal Court of Australia. I offer your Honour my best congratulations and best wishes on your appointment. The Attorney-General, Senator The Honourable George Brandis QC regrets that he is unable to attend the special sitting, but he has asked that I convey his warmest congratulations to your Honour.
I would like to acknowledge the many distinguished guests here today, including the Honourable Justice Virginia Bell and His Honour Justice Stephen Gageler of the High Court; His Honour Tom Bathurst, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales; Her Honour Margaret Beazley, President of the Court of Appeal; His Honour Justice Brian Preston, Chief Justice of the Land and Environment Court; Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission; Professor Rosalind Croucher, President of the Australian Law Reform Commission. Also celebrating this special moment with you today are members of your Honour’s own family, including your mother, Jenny, your partner, Peter, and your brother, Julian.
Your Honour’s appointment is a fitting recognition of your long and distinguished career in the law, particularly your 20 years at the Bar. The skills and experience you have acquired will serve you well in your new role, as will your natural intelligence and compassion. Your Honour’s remarkable intellect became prominent at an early age, and you graduated as Dux at Walford Girls Grammar School in 1980.
In keeping with the family tradition, your Honour studied Law at the University of Adelaide and graduated with Honours in 1985. Your Honour’s legal career began the subsequent year when you worked as associate to The Honourable Patrick Matheson, Former Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia, and I venture that it was while you were working as an associate that you further developed your love of the legal system and your understanding of court process.
Your Honour’s academic talent and desire for intellectual rigour led you to study a Master of Laws Degree at the University of Cambridge in 1988, with the support of the prestigious Shell Scholarship. Never one to stop learning, you subsequently returned to Cambridge, where you were awarded a Doctor of Philosophy and received the Yorke Prize in 1995 for your dissertation in public international law. Your studies provided a firm foundation for your outstanding legal career. You were called to the Bar in 1992, and quickly gained expertise in litigation and advised across a broad range of practice laws, with a particular interest in native title and public law. You have appeared in the High Court of Australia on more than 40 occasions, and have acted for governments, agencies, corporations and individuals.
In 2004 your Honour was appointed Queen’s Counsel, a title which befits your reputation within the profession as both meticulously prepared and an exceptional advocate. Your Honour has regularly used your advocacy skills and standing within the legal committee to benefit the vulnerable. Consistent with your qualities of humility and generosity, you have appeared regularly on a pro bono basis, including on instructions from the Australian Human Rights Commission and animal welfare groups. Your acute sense of public duty will serve you well in your new role as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia.
Your Honour’s contribution to the legal community has extended well beyond your work at the Bar. You have assisted others to gain a greater understanding of the law, through tutoring university students and writing educational materials and research papers. The book of native title that you co-authored with Stephen Lloyd has been a particularly important contribution. Likewise, your Honour has been a valuable member of various legal professional bodies, including the Administrative Review Council and the Australian Academy of Law, of which you are a director and a Fellow.
I am confident of your Honour’s accomplishments and personal qualities will equip you well to make an excellent judicial officer. You have an impressive legal mind and deep understanding of legal principles and their rationale. You have been known and sought after for your high quality work, and admired for your courtesy, patience and kindness. To this end, one of your colleagues remarked that your immense legal knowledge and intelligence will be a wonderful asset to the Federal Court. Litigants will always be treated with the utmost respect. Your temperament and integrity positions you to adeptly face the challenges and responsibilities of this appointment.
I note that your swearing in today will be a little bit different from mine, when I will be taken struggling, forced to take the office, as befits its history dating back to the 14th century. But on behalf of the Australian Government, and the people of Australia, I extend to you my warm congratulations on your appointment, and welcome you to the Bench of the Federal Court of Australia, may it please the Court.
ALLSOP CJ: Ms McLeod.
MS F. McLEOD SC: May it please the Court. I appear on behalf of the Law Council of Australia, its members, constituent bodies and sections, to congratulate your Honour on your appointment to this court. I offer my respects to country, acknowledging the traditional owners of this land, and I offer my respects to elders past and present. I am particularly delighted to speak at your Honour’s welcome. Some years ago your Honour and I assisted at an NDO climate change think tank with a number of young lawyers and environment groups interested in test case litigation. In one moot your Honour drew the short straw and had to argue the case for a new coal gas plant to be built in pristine wilderness. You came up with a simple defence to our claim of irreversible environmental damage, saying simply, “Well, our coal is very clean. We wash it.”
Your Honour has been a member of the Law Council Resources Energy and Environment Subcommittee since 2008. You were also a member of the Administrative Law Committee for some eight years from 2005 to 2012. Ms Needham and Mr Dobson will speak of your Honour’s practice at the South Australian and New South Wales Bars, and I shall therefore touch on a little of your Honour’s history, and on the breadth of your Honour’s work and interests beyond that.
Your Honour’s paternal grandparents came to Australia from Cyprus and Liverpool. Your Greek Cypriot grandfather, for the sake of his children, anglicised his name from Pieris to Perry. Your father, the late Honourable John Perry AO QC, was, when he retired from the Supreme Court of South Australia, the longest serving judge of that court, 19 years, and for some years the senior puisne judge.
Your father was passionate about education and about music, passions your Honour shares, although you have opted to follow your mother’s love of the piano forte rather than your father’s preferred violin. Music, it was said, nourished your father’s life. I understand that your Honour visits your Cambridge College, Gonville and Caius, you’re often to be found in one of the music rooms tinkling away happily at one of the college Steinways. Your father’s portrait as a young man hangs in your mother’s Adelaide home. He is smoking a pipe, no doubt appearing incredibly sophisticated, and he remains a great influence in your life.
As we’ve heard, your Honour graduated from Adelaide with an Honours Law Degree, and then completed an LLM and PhD at Cambridge. Your Honour has returned to Cambridge several times as a visiting fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, for three months in 2005/6, in 2007, and again in 2008 for the Centre’s 25th anniversary celebrations. The Lauterpacht Centre is part of the Faculty of Law, and the scholarly home of international law at the University of Cambridge. It’s a place you have described as your spiritual home, a place you never really leave, and the affection and regard are mutual. The present director records your gift of papers to the centre of The Challenge of Conflict International Law Responds, the published collection from that international law conference in Adelaide for which your Honour and your late father were members of the small organising committee.
The immediate past director of the Lauterpacht Centre, Professor James Crawford AC SC, had been your lecturer in Constitutional Law at the University of Adelaide. Professor Crawford, now Whewell Professor of International Law at Cambridge, says that your Honour’s PhD thesis is, and I quote, “An excellent piece of work, first class in conception and execution.” He says that he would at any time have welcomed it as a leading monograph to be published in Cambridge studies in International and Comparative Law. Professor Crawford notes that your Honour has long had plans to update your thesis for publication, and with his typical encouragement, or is it perhaps gentle admonishment, he has remarked that he continues to hope that you will find time to getting around to doing so.
Your Honour was called to the Bar of England and Wales as a member of Inner Temple in July last year, and became a tenant at 20 Essex Street, a set of commercial chambers in London in which the founder of the Lauterpacht Centre, Sir Elihu Lauterpacht QC, has his chambers. Sir Elihu was your PhD thesis supervisor for the first year, after which you worked with Professor Vaughan Lowe QC. As we’ve heard from Ms Bishop, your Honour was awarded the Yorke Prize for your doctoral thesis, joining the Honourable Paul Finn as judges of this court whose academic work has been so recognised.
Perhaps less well known, in light of your upbringing in classical music, your Honour is a fan of British rock. This includes Jethro Tull, and this year you went to hear Ian Anderson performing Thick as a Brick at the Royal Albert Hall, both albums. A European holiday followed, taking in Paris, Milan, Florence, and Radicondoli in Tuscany, where you were spotted wandering the cobbled laneways and harvesting white mulberries.
You have achieved a remarkable balance across a wide range of interests. Your Honour has attained the rank of Squadron Leader in the Royal Australian Air Force Legal Specialist Reserves, acquiring along the way the nickname Dr Biggles Perry QC. Your Honour is alas a Port Adelaide AFL tragic, but there is always next year. And you have also taken up skiing, but perhaps with more skill, it must be said, at après than ski.
Your Honour has excelled in the academy, both as a student and in your ongoing research and university board work. You have excelled in practice in both advice and appearance work, including a wide range of pro bono cases and a formidable number of notable cases in the High Court. Your international wanderings have taken you often to Europe and other exotic locations, but you were equally at home firing up the baby Weber to share a meal with friends.
On behalf of the Law Council of Australia, I wish your Honour joy in your appointment, and a long, satisfying and distinguished service as a judge of this court. May it please the Court.
ALLSOP CJ: Ms Needham.
MS J. NEEDHAM SC: May it please the court. Through a stroke of good fortune, this ceremonial sitting coincides with some serious criminal proceedings in the District Court of New South Wales. With the President, Phillip Boulten SC, therefore occupied elsewhere, I seized this opportunity to welcome your Honour to this court. I was particularly pleased to be speaking today as I have greatly valued your Honour’s friendship from when we met at a farewell party given by Sydney’s female silks for a former judge of this court, Catherine Branson. I note in passing that your Honour’s appointment takes the number of Sydney-based women silks from 35 to 34, thus making those kind of gatherings even cosier.
Justice Perry, your CV is complete with achievements in both academia and the courts, and we have heard of a few of those today. There are, of course, too many for me to convey in the time available. What I can say is this: the Australian people, not to mention future litigants, are fortunate that a practitioner with such vast experience in native title, administrative law and other facets of the Federal Court’s jurisdiction has accepted an appointment to this bench.
The Honourable Bronwyn Bishop has already spoken of your family’s pedigree in the law. You graduated in 1985 with an honours degree in law from the University of Adelaide. After serving as associate to the Honourable Justice Matheson of the Supreme Court of South Australia, you returned to academia – this time, as we’ve heard, at Cambridge University. And there, as we’ve heard from Ms McLeod, you completed an extremely well-regarded PhD dissertation on international law.
Your Honour was called to the bar of South Australia in 1992. In common with most junior barristers, your first cases were a mix of common law, probate and criminal work. In 1997, you were briefed to appear in Yarmirr v the Northern Territory – the first of many leading native title cases that became a hallmark of your career in the law. It required hearings on the land and on the water surrounding Croker Island, one of the more remote corners of the top end.
There were no facilities on the island so, in a rare display of lateral thinking, the Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments chartered a racing yacht for your accommodation. Your Honour was shrewd enough to stake a claim over the captain’s quarters, but it was ferociously hot and cramped, and the surrounding waters were infested with crocodiles. Nevertheless, I’m told you managed to retain your elegantly attired self in such difficult circumstances, and did not let the travails of the accommodation affect your performance in one of Australia’s most important native title cases. At first instance, and in subsequent appeals in the High Court, Yarmirr made new law regarding native title claims over the sea – an area of law that came to be a special interest to your Honour. In the ensuing years, your Honour also appeared in, or has given advice in connection with, Jango v the Northern Territory, the Wik Peoples v the Commonwealth, Yorta Yorta and the Waanyi People v Queensland. There is hardly an aspect of native title law to which you have not contributed. In 2003, you co-authored with Stephen Lloyd the well-respected textbook Australian Native Title Law.
Throughout more than 20 years as an advocate, your Honour was briefed to appear in the High Court with successive Commonwealth Solicitors-General Gavan Griffith AO QC, David Bennett AC QC and Stephen Gageler SC in a number of constitutional and environmental cases. As a footnote for historical purposes, your Honour was immortalised in the history of the High Court courtesy of a painting displayed on level 3 of the Canberra Registry depicting the 2003 hearing in Purvis v New South Wales, in which your Honour is depicted as junior counsel to the-then Solicitor-General David Bennett AC QC.
In 2004, your Honour took silk in your home jurisdiction of South Australia, which of course gave your Honour the rank of the Queen’s Counsel. Your appointment takes the number of female Queen’s Counsel practicing at the Sydney bar from two down to one. Perhaps this trend will be reversed in the near future. Who knows?
Your Honour came to the Sydney bar in 2004, first as a licensee on the sixth floor of Selborne Chambers, then as a full member in 2006. Your colleagues laud your warmth and engaging nature, and note that you were a frequent initiator and keen participant in Floor social activity.
In April 2009, your Honour appeared in Qarase v Bainimarama in Fiji’s Court of Appeal as amicus for the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum. Your address to the Court on the importance of constitutionalism and its application to the situation in Fiji was described to me as powerful and cogent.
As we have heard, in 2011 your Honour was commissioned as an officer in the RAAF Special Reserves, in the same intake as Judge Hoy of Senior Counsel from the New South Wales District Court, and Arthur Moses SC. I mention both deliberately, so as to make plausible each one’s claim that the other was the source of my information. Tasked with providing legal services in matters ranging from discipline to targeting, you were given the improbably sounding rank of the squadron leader. I’m told that as part of your training, you undertook two residential courses, one at the Military Law Centre in Sydney, and the other at the RAAF Officer Training School in East Sale, Victoria.
My sources inform me that you took to military routine as well as can be expected of a barrister. At East Sale, you were easily the best-groomed officer, no matter what physical activity was required. Intrigued by the thought of senior counsel drilling on the parade ground, I inquired with the Australian Defence Force, but they declined to comment on the grounds that an answer might give aid and comfort to the Taliban.
Messrs Moses and Hoy were, however, generally complimentary, saying that your Honour appeared to be proficient and was often the only one in step. Having said that, your Honour is often a step ahead of the crowd, and you may be rightly proud of being a pioneer in the law as it relates to the rights of animals used in the horrors of factory farming.
Since 2009, you have been a board member of Voiceless, the Animal Protection Institute, and you have presented many of their lectures. You have also conducted pro bono cases for the New South Wales Animal Welfare League. Furthermore, you helped to establish the Barristers Animal Welfare Panel, and you are a Governor of World Wildlife Fund Australia.
Since you settled in Sydney, your Honour has contributed greatly to the Bar Association’s law reform and continuing professional development objectives. You were a member of the Association’s Human Rights Committee from 2010 until your appointment to this court. You served on the Equal Opportunity Committee since 2011. You were regarded as an exceptionally good mentor to juniors at the New South Wales Bar, renowned for taking genuine interest in everyone you work with and treating them as equals.
Your Honour has chaired many and various CPD seminars on topics ranging from constitutional law to the art of advocacy. For your unstinting service to the profession, the Bar Association thanks you. I should note that you were also appointed to the Association’s Senior Counsel Selection Committee for this year, only to step down before the first meeting following your appointment to this Court. I know that others, faced with the large box of papers delivered to the members of that committee, have also fled to the bench, but I make no comment about the timing of your Honour’s appointment.
Justice Perry, it was a privilege to welcome you to the Federal Court of Australia. The court is gaining a judge of intelligence, diligence, courage, unfailing courtesy, and a deep sense of justice. All that remains is to congratulate you, and to wish you well. May it please the Court.
ALLSOP CJ: Mr Dobson.
MR J. DOBSON: May it please the Court. I also acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Cadigal People of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.
On behalf of the solicitors of New South Wales, it’s a privilege to add my congratulations on your Honour’s appointment to the Federal Court bench. This is a very well-deserved appointment on every level, and a testament to the breadth and depth of your experience, skill set and personal characteristic that make you eminently suitable for your judicial role. As the last speaker today, I will do my best not to reiterate those aspects of your Honour’s professional career and background that have already been noted, but I do wish to highlight your significant contribution as an inspiring role model not only for other women but for all members of the profession.
A fantastic mentor for women, your Honour has demonstrated real generosity of spirit, actively promoting the interests of women and taking personal time to foster the care of others. Indeed, your constitutional work in the High Court, where you were regularly the only woman to speak, has been very empowering for young female advocates – to see a woman so visible and competent in the country’s highest court. Your approach in dealings in the courts and with your opponents have always been polite, respectful, measured and ethical, as junior barristers under your guidance could attest. You were meticulous in preparing for a case, and it was not unusual to still be working up a matter at 11.00 pm at night to ensure no stone was left unturned. They reported that truckloads of coffee kept you going, and it was not unusual for them to arrive with coffee in hand, regardless of the hour, when visiting your Honour.
Your keen intellect, personal commitment to the highest ethical integrity, and demeanour has won the respect of people from all walks of life, from professional colleagues, academics, to animal right activists and taxi drivers, who I am told still ask after you in your home town, Adelaide. Adelaide colleagues report that from the start of your career, your Honour proved to be extremely dedicated, hard working, and would do anything for anyone. You earned your stripes acting as a junior for the leading silk, Tom Gray, now a justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia. You were known to always provide insightful information about cases. One of the partners in a large firm refers to your Honour as “her ladyship,” a term of affection that relates to your impeccable manners, consideration and care of others.
While your Honour displays a studious demeanour, that is by no means the whole story. Your extracurricular activities include squadron leader of the Royal Australian Air Force Legal Specialist Reserves. You are a very talented classical pianist, a lover of literature, and, I am told, cats. While you were always up for a challenge, perhaps a recent fall on the ski fields where you sustained a shoulder injury may have been one you would rather not have tackled in hindsight.
Growing up in Adelaide’s inner southern suburb of Millswood your musical interests were fine-tuned from an early age. Your late father, the Honourable John Perry, was an accomplished violinist who, as a student, led the Elder Conservatorium Orchestra and went on to play at the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. He met your mother, Jennifer, who was a student pianist at the Conservatorium, performed with her and later married her. We welcome Jennifer here today from Adelaide.
Your Honour was the only family member to follow in your father’s footsteps. Your older brother, Michael, is an engineer working in Israel, while your younger brother, Julian – also attending today – looks after a private investment portfolio in Melbourne. Your father became Head of Adelaide’s first independent barrister’s chambers, known as Bar Chambers prior to his appointment as a judge of the South Australian Supreme Court. In 2007, he became an officer of the Order of Australia.
Your Honour also joined Bar Chambers when you went to the bar in 1992, after gaining your Master of Laws at the University of Cambridge. The Honourable Catherine Branson, a former justice of this court and South Australia’s first female Crown solicitor, was also a member of Bar Chambers. Your Honour has maintained a strong association with Bar Chambers.
One of your great mentors was Professor James Crawford AC QC, who first fired your interest in international law when you were studying at the University of Adelaide. A demanding teacher with a formidable intellect, your Honour excelled under his guidance. He later moved to Cambridge University, where your Honour completed her PhD. Described as a die-hard Anglophile, your Honour takes every opportunity to return to the UK. As we’ve heard, you were awarded a Doctor of Philosophy from Cambridge, and the Yorke Prize for your doctorial thesis in international law. You have also returned to Cambridge as a visiting research fellow, and in 2012 joined 20 Essex Street Chambers in London.
I’m told you have not enjoyed the pinot noir in Sydney, and continue to prefer a glass of white wine and that you are also – I hope I get this right – a pescetarian, which I’m assured has more to do with the consumption of meat, rather than any religious order.
While it seems clear that your Honour was always destined for judicial office and will do extremely on the bench, your advocacy skills, sharp mind and generous contribution to the mentoring of junior barristers will be a great loss to the bar. On behalf of the Law Society of New South Wales, and the solicitors in this state, I wish you every success in your new role. As the Court pleases.
ALLSOP CJ: Justice Perry.
PERRY J: Thank you. I also acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and I pay my respects to their elders past and present.
Chief Justice, Judges of the Court, distinguished guests, my family, friends, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. I am deeply honoured by the presence of each of you and particularly thank those who have flown from interstate to be here or deferred their school holiday plans. It is an additional honour to this important Court to see so many past and present Justices of this and other courts here today, including their Honours Justices Bell and Gageler, the Honourable William Gummow AC, Chief Justice Bathurst, President Beazley, and Chief Judge Preston.
May I start by thanking the Honourable Bronwyn Bishop, member for Mackellar, Jane Needham SC, Fiona McLeod SC and Mr Dobson for their most generous words. I am, and I am sure that Mr Dobson would agree, particularly delighted to have been welcomed by three such exceptional women.
I want to start with a tale of a serious young man with jet black hair and dark brown eyes. His father was a Greek Cypriot who worked at the port, and his mother was from Liverpool – both from seafaring families. This young man was a brilliant violinist and eventually came to study at the Elder Conservatorium of Music where he met a beautiful and talented pianist, and fell in love. They were inseparable and together for almost 50 years. That young man was, as you have now heard, my father and the pianist, my mother.
My father also fell in love with the law which he studied and chose to pursue as his profession to the regret of his violin teachers. From his modest beginnings, he became a partner at Kelly & Co where his article clerks included the Honourable John Doyle AC QC, formerly Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia, and the Honourable Justice John Mansfield of this Court before whom I have had the pleasure of appearing on many occasions.
He was later to join the private bar and become Queen’s Counsel. And in the fullness of time, he became a judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia where he served for almost 20 years. It was with great pride that I was present at his swearing in, in 1988, having flown back from Cambridge to be there.
My father’s passion for the law, his commitment to justice, his dedication to public service and his tremendous generosity of spirit have served as a great inspiration to me in my life.
My father’s generosity, it must also be said, included frequent entertaining at home of fellow members of the profession and friends with my mother – as some of you here will no doubt recall. This occurred sometimes until quite late into the evening much to my annoyance as a somewhat feisty teenager who became extremely grumpy when deprived of the requisite number of hours of sleep. And so I recall one evening, storming out of my bedroom and proceeding in no uncertain terms to tell off my father’s guests, among whom was included a future Chief Justice, for keeping me awake – conduct definitely not to be encouraged in someone aspiring to a legal career, particularly not whilst dressed in one’s pyjamas.
While my father has since passed away, it is very special to me that my mother has flown from Adelaide to be here. It is clear that I have at last done something of which she thoroughly approves. Among her many achievements, my mother was, as I used to tease my father, the first family member to ‘sit on the bench’, as she was for many years a lay member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal in South Australia.
It is perhaps true, as one friend has said, that at university we are educated in a field of study, but at school we are educated for life. I was fortunate to have been educated at school by a generation of outstanding and enlightened women.
When these women were young, the doors were not open to them to a professional career such as that which I have enjoyed. Nonetheless, they instilled in us the belief that we could achieve anything that we were bold enough to dream of, and diligent and focused in achieving. There was no comprehension of a glass ceiling. We entered the world with the philosophy that we all stood or fell on our own merits. They also taught us not merely compassion for the vulnerability and suffering of others, but the practical compulsion to act in response no matter how small our contribution may seem to be.
At school, I must confess to being the bookworm equivalent of today’s computer geek, often reading under the covers late into the night by torchlight with a goal of reading all the books in the library before my school days were complete. While I did not quite reach that goal, those geek tendencies were to continue when I moved to my new home in the flickering fluoro-lit corrals of the basement library at the University of Adelaide Law School. At law school, I forged friendships that have endured today and which I hold dear, including those of my friends, Penny McCann and Tanya Heaslip, who have travelled from Adelaide and Perth respectively to be here. I am also honoured by the presence of both the current and a former Dean of the Adelaide Law School – Professors John Williams and Paul Fairall respectively - together with Professor David Dixon, Dean of the Law School at UNSW.
I was at law school again blessed by teachers of vision and depth who, with my father, instilled in me a passion for the law and justice. Time permits me to mention but two: Professor John Keeler, a man of high intellect and soft humour, who as my honours supervisor, gently guided me in the manner of a true teacher to find the answers inside myself; and Professor James Crawford, whose service to Australia and humanity were recently recognised in his appointment as a Companion of the Order of Australia. That service not only includes his public and visible service, but the quiet devotion and encouragement that he unstintingly gives to his former students to which I can personally attest. Indeed, it is fair to say that James, who holds the Whewell Professorial Chair at Cambridge, inspired me to develop and pursue a love of public international law and respect for the rule of law, as he has now for several generations of Australian lawyers.
I was also inspired by the life of the late Professor D P O’Connell who taught my father at the University of Adelaide for many years, and eventually held the chair in international law at Oxford. Sadly, he died before his time in 1979 and I have known him only through his extensive writing.
Despite being told by one most learned professor at Cambridge that there was nothing left to be written on state succession after Dan O’Connell’s contribution, I embarked with the boldness of youth upon the subject under the generous supervision of two most inspiring but modest men, Sir Eli Lauterpacht and subsequently Professor Vaughan Lowe.
I must confess that it was with quite some trepidation that I returned then to Australia and accepted an offer to join Bar Chambers in Adelaide to practice in domestic law. I had no real experience in legal practice and at that stage there was no readership system at the South Australian bar. Moreover, the words of encouragement that I received as I signed the customarily large cheque to buy my room, were that, “You know there are many solicitors who won’t brief you because you are a woman.” However, as Michael Jordan said on being inducted into the basketball hall of fame, “Limits like fears, are often just an illusion,” - a sentiment that resonated with me as I have explained. And there were such inspiring role models as the Honourable Catherine Branson QC, who was a member of Bar Chambers when I joined, and later a judge of this Court, and Belinda Powell QC, who had been articled to my father. So I hoped that hard work and commitment would ultimately enable me to overcome some of these obstacles and persuade some ill-informed solicitor, at some stage, to give me a brief.
In fact, it was the generosity of more senior members of the bar, and their confidence in me, that led to my first briefs. And I recall my great pride when at the end of my first year, I had not only met my costs but made a profit – pride which I must also confess somewhat dented shortly thereafter, upon receiving a cheque from the government for a low-income rebate.
That leads me to the point that it was not only the independence of the Bar that attracted me, but also the camaraderie. While we are independent, we do not practice alone. I would not be here were it not for the extraordinary generosity of senior members of the Bar in sharing their experiences, in mentoring and encouraging me, and in inspiring me to work to achieve my best. These include the former Solicitors-General Gavan Griffith AO QC, David Bennett AC QC, and his Honour Justice Gageler. I remember those early days in my career as a baby junior, sitting alert and straight-backed at the bar table in the High Court, listening intently to every aspect of the exchange between Bar and Bench, both inspired and daunted by the advocacy unfolding before me.
I, in turn, as a leader at the Bar, have had the absolute pleasure of working with many exceptionally talented and committed juniors and solicitors, and benefiting from their intellectual input and enthusiasm. If I may be permitted to feel proud of any aspect of my career, it is in the positive influence that I hope I have had on their lives and careers. I shall miss working with each of you.
There are some who I must thank briefly before I close.
First, I thank the members of my chambers in Adelaide and my chambers here. Many of you have become great friends. All of you enriched my professional life. And I am delighted to see so many of you here, including those who have travelled from interstate – Mark Liversey QC and Haroon Hassan, who was one of my father’s associates. I must also thank the members and staff of my London chambers, who made this lone antipodean very welcome, and particularly Sir Eli, Sir Daniel Bethlehem KCMG QC and Penelope Neville for their generous encouragement and support.
Secondly, I wish to thank those who have encouraged and supported me from the RAAF and the Australian Defence Force. I am delighted that my work with you will continue.
Thirdly, it has been a delight to work with my two PAs, Catherine Young and more recently Meredith Burns, and also with my clerk, Lisa Stewart. How could I have managed without you?
Finally, my deepest thanks to my mother, my family, my partner, Peter, and my closest friends. There is no joy in any achievement that cannot be shared with those you love. I am greatly blessed by your love and support, and the presence of a number of you here to celebrate with me.
I thank you all again for attending, and look forward with much excitement to the challenges of my new role.
ALLSOP CJ: The court will now adjourn.
THE FULL COURT OF THE FEDERAL COURT OF AUSTRALIA IS NOW ADJOURNED