– After 9 years of sitting on the High Court bench, Susan Kiefel was sworn-in as the first female Chief Justice in the history of the country.
– She left school at 15 and was admitted at the bar at 21, making her the first woman in Queensland to take silk, in 1987; her story is inspirational.
– She received a warm welcome and admiration by her colleagues and peers and acknowledged the significance of her new role.
While the world was busy focusing on bad politics and tennis scores, Australia made history earlier this week, swearing-in the first ever female High Court Chief Justice, Susan, Kiefel, in Canberra on Monday morning.
She gained a spot in the High Court bench back in 2007, after having previously served as a judge in the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Queensland. Her appointment, which took place last November, marks the end of over a century-long series of men leading the nation’s highest court.
She replaces Robert French, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70, while 43-year- old James Edelman filler her role, making him the nation’s youngest High Court judge.
Chief Justice Kiefel was warmly welcomed by her colleagues and a crowd of peers that had nothing but admiration for her achievement. Attorney-General George Brandis was one of those people and paid tribute during the ceremony.
“It has been a feature of your honour’s story, as it is of today’s ceremony, that you have at several crucial steps in your career been the first woman to occupy a particular office,” Senator Brandis said.
“But your success has had nothing to do with your gender and everything to do with your intelligence, diligence and skill.”
Given her academic path to law, his statement couldn’t have been more on point. He even went on to deem is as “a great Australian story… to inspire women and men alike”.
Susan Kiefel first left school at age 15 to begin working as a legal secretary and completed high school attending night classes. She then went on to study law part-time and was soon after the first woman to be admitted to the Queensland bar at just 21 years old in 1987.
She was the first woman in Queensland to be appointed Queen’s Counsel and the first female judge of the state’s Supreme Court. Chief Justice Kiefel is now one of three women sitting on the bench of the highest court in the nation, including Justice Virginia Bell and Justice Michelle Gordon.
If that’s not an inspirational story, I don’t know what is.
During her first speech as Chief Justice, she said she was “heartened” by the kind welcome and optimism surrounding her appointment, but mindful of the degree of responsibility that lays on her with this new role.
“The appointment of more women to this court 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,” she said.
“Chief justices, like the other justices, give a part of their lives to the service of this court and thereby to the people of Australia,” she added.
“The chief justice who have preceded me have been persons of the highest integrity and ability. I have been given a great responsibility, with the cooperation of my colleagues, I trust that I shall discharge it well and justify the confidence that has been proposed in me.”
Now that’s what I call a role model. A woman that didn’t follow the rules, yet obtained what she wanted and achieved all her goals in the best of her ability, quickly rising to the top in an outstanding manner.
This goes to show that you don’t have to stick to society’s stereotypes and ideals behind the making of a well-educated and functional adult. There’s always more than one way to achieve your goals. Just because you are not doing the same thing as your friends or what your family expects of you, it doesn’t mean you’ll be unable to fulfil your dreams and do great things in life. Every success story is different, but they all share the same building blocks: confidence, determination and ambition. And the only person you should count on is yourself.