29 November 2016, Written by Paris Faint


JUSTICE Susan Kiefel (pictured) has made history in the High Court today, becoming the first ever woman to assume the role of Chief Justice in the institution's 113 years.

Born and raised in Queensland, Justice Kiefel left school at age 15 to pursue a career as a secretary.

Justice Kiefel joined Cannan and Peterson (now Sly and Weigall Cannan and Peterson) in 1973 as a legal clerk; by day she worked for the firm, and by night she studied the law.

After passing the Bar with honours Justice Kiefel was admitted in 1975, and her career has since been paved with glittering milestones.

Before being appointed to the Supreme Court of Queensland in 1993, Justice Kiefel was named the state's first female Queen's Counsel.

Justice Kiefel's string of high-profile career achievements was formally recognised by Griffith University in 2009 when she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate for her contribution to the legal profession.

Justice Kiefel is honoured to have been appointed and has vowed to uphold the importance of the High Court throughout her term.

"The High Court remains as relevant today to Australians as it did at Federation," she says.

"The issues that come before the High Court affect many aspects of the life of the nation.

"It will be a privilege to walk in the footsteps of the eminent jurists who have been appointed Chief Justices since the Court was established in 1903."

Women Lawyers Association of Queensland President Cassandra Heilbronn says Justice Kiefel is regarded as a true pioneer for women in the industry.

"Justice Kiefel is a prime example that we do not always have to follow the traditional path to success," says Heilbronn.

"She has experience in almost every role in the legal profession, and I could not be more excited or proud that a female lawyer from Queensland has been appointed as the next, and first female, Chief Justice."

Echoing the sentiment, Law Council President Stuart Clark AM says she is a trailblazer and an inspiring candidate for the nation's top legal job.

"Justice Kiefel's talent and commitment to her profession has taken her to Australia's highest judicial office," says Clark.

"[Her] success should serve as an inspiration to all young people considering a career in law."

Justice Kiefel will take up the mantle from retiring Chief Justice Robert French, who has stepped down after more than 8 years in the position.

Supreme Court Judge James Edelman, a Rhodes Scholar who became a professor of Law at Oxford at the age of 34, will complete the High Court bench.

Clark has paid tribute to the outgoing Chief Justice French and has also congratulated Justice Edelmen on his new appointment.

"Chief Justice French has been an exemplary leader of the Court over the past eight years he leaves a legacy of important contributions to the law, notably in his commitment to Indigenous justice," says Clark.

"Justice Edelman's career has been remarkable having made significant contributions as both an academic and legal practitioner.

"The breadth of Justice Edelman's achievements to date are all the more remarkable by his relative youth.

"Underlying these achievements, however, has been a very clear commitment to public service, driven by a desire that the community should understand and respect the importance of the law."

Justice Kiefel will begin her term on 30 January 2017.

Author: Paris Faint





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