Last week, it was announced that Susan Kiefel AC (pictured) will take office as the 13th Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, following the retirement of CJ Robert French AC in January 2017.
Early in her life, at the age of 15, the young Susan Kiefel chose to leave high school claiming that she wanted to be financially independent. At that time, women were being encouraged to pursue a career in either teaching or nursing.
Instead of pursuing a career in either of the two courses, she decided to work for a group of Queensland barristers as a secretary. Later, Susan declared that she wanted to be her own boss and that she would soon leave her job as a secretary.
That disciplined focus and self-determination that she had, was exactly what steered her to rise through the legal industry without even a single degree.
Susan decided to go back to school – she undertook her master’s degree in law at Cambridge and was the first female barrister in Queensland to take silk at the age of 33.
Susan Kiefel was then admitted to the bar where she set an outstanding reputation, in equity and commercial law.
Justice Kiefel acknowledged the importance of the court as an institution and would work to ensure its independence is upheld always. While issuing her statement, the eminent jurist said she was very delighted by the announcement of her appointment.
“Many aspects of the lives of Australians are influenced by the issues that come before the High Court. Just as it did at Federation, the High Court remains as relevant today to Australians,” said Justice Kiefel.
Thus, this report comes as history because Susan Kiefel has set a record as the first woman in Australia to hold such a high office in the legal industry.
“I believe the Chief Justice-in-waiting would be reluctant to discuss anything regarding her gender and the new office,” said the president of the Australian Law Reform Commission – Professor Rosalind Croucher AM. The ALRC president made the statement amid what has been widely described as a historic, landmark appointment.
Since 2003, Susan Kiefel worked as a part-time ALRC commissioner. Before her appointment to the High Court of Australia in 2007, Susan worked together with Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, at the ALRC.
Professor Croucher said that Susan understood herself and what she was after. She knew how to set her own goals and overcome the barriers along the way as a woman in the legal industry.
LCA President Stuart Clark AM also made his statement regarding Justice Kiefel’s appointment saying she has worked so hard to win her way into the nation’s highest judicial office.
Mr. Clark said that all the young people considering a career in law should emulate the footsteps of Justice Kiefel and that her success should serve as an inspiration to them.
James Edelman, Federal Court judge, will be appointed to the bench of the High Court the day after Justice Kiefel steps into her new office next year.