Her Excellency The Honourable Dame Roma Mitchell DBE



Mr Chancellor, 

The first of the professions to call itself a 'learned' profession was the law. It is a usage that retains a vestige of life in the barristers' phrase, 'my learned friend' - where both 'learned' and 'friend' may occasionally be intended as ironic . . . euphemisms concealing contempt. 

Like the other learned professions, however, the law was slow to give any opportunity at all to women. Shakespeare's Portia, more than a match in wit and knowledge for any male advocate, had to disguise her sex in order to gain a hearing. 

In Australia Her Excellency the Honourable Dame Roma Mitchell has had to be more than a match for her male colleagues in gaining admission to a sequence of distinguished offices. Admitted to the South Australian Bar in 1934, she had to wait until 1962 to become the first woman in Australia to take silk. Three years later she became the first woman to be appointed a Supreme Court judge, serving with distinction in that role until 1983. 

In what lesser mortals might have thought of as their retirement, she then served for seven years as Chancellor of The University of Adelaide and subsequently in her present post as Governor of South Australia. It will come as no surprise to learn that she is the first woman to serve either as a University Chancellor or as a Governor in Australia. 

While holding a succession of demanding legal offices she has found time to serve also as Vice-President of the Law Society of South Australia and of the Law Council of South Australia; as Chairman of the Parole Board of South Australia, the Heritage Committee of South Australia, the Commonwealth Human Rights Commission, and the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust of Australia; as National President of the Australian Association of Ryder-Cheshire Foundations; and as a member of both the Board of Governors of the Adelaide Festival of the Arts and of the Council of the Order of Australia. 

Mr Chancellor, for her distinguished legal achievements, her service to higher education in Australia, and her many contributions to the betterment of society I present to you Her Excellency the Honourable Dame Roma Mitchell, Companion of the Order of Australia, Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Bachelor of Laws and Doctor of the University of The University of Adelaide, for confe1rnl of the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, to which she has been admitted by the Senate of the University. 


Doctor of Laws honoris causa