Appointment of Queenslander as nation’s first female High Court Chief Justice a worthy and inspired choice

Queensland Law Society has praised the Federal Government for its appointment of esteemed jurist Susan Kiefel as the nation’s first female High Court Chief Justice.

President Bill Potts said the appointment was a just and warranted recognition for the tireless leadership and contribution Justice Kiefel had made to the judiciary since her appointment to Queensland’s Supreme Court in 1993.

“Justice Kiefel’s appointment is most welcome and the decision to appoint her is probably the easiest one Prime Minister Turnbull will have to make during his tenure; Her Honour is clearly the best person for the job,” Mr Potts said.

“She is not only a Queenslander by birth but also by deed. She has already had a long and successful career at the Queensland Bar, being the first woman to be appointed Queen’s Counsel in Queensland.

“Her Honour has also given freely of her time to speak at Queensland Law Society seminars, something for which the Society is extremely grateful-and which indicates Her Honour’s willingness to give back to the profession.”

Justice Kiefel will replace retiring Chief Justice Robert French and her appointment ends an almost 115-year stranglehold on a position that has been exclusively held by male members of the legal profession.

The appointment was announced by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday (Nov 29) ahead of Justice French’s imminent retirement.

Mr Turnbull, in making the announcement, said: “Susan Kiefel’s story is one that is an inspiration.”

He said Justice Kiefel left school at the age of 15 and began her working life as a legal secretary before studying law part-time through the barrister’s admission board.

“She has been one of Australia’s most outstanding judicial officers and her appointment crowns a great career with even greater judicial service yet to come in this most important role,” Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Potts said the newly appointed Chief Justice’s legal career was almost second to none in the legal profession.

He said her list of legal achievements included: her admission as a barrister of the Supreme Court of Queensland in 1975, becoming Queensland’s first female appointment as Queen’s Counsel in 1987, appointment to the Federal Court of Australia in 1994 and then to the High Court of Australia in 2007.

“Simply put, Justice Kiefel has had a stellar career and that experience makes her the perfect choice as Australia’s most senior jurist,” Mr Potts said.