The Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC

30 November 2009

Award of Doctor of Laws honoris causa
The Honourable Justice Susan Kiefel


The Honourable Justice Susan Kiefel, Queensland’s first female Queen’s Counsel and Australia's third female High Court judge, did not take a conventional road to reaching the highest court in the land.

Justice Kiefel was born in Cairns, Queensland, in 1954, leaving high school at the end of year 10. She completed secretarial training at Kangaroo Point Technical College and eventually came to work as a secretary for three barristers – Fitzgerald, Moynihan and Mack – a position which was to change the course of her life. She completed Year 12 by studying at night and undertook the Barristers Admissions Board examinations in order to qualify as a barrister. She was encouraged in these endeavours by the barristers she worked for.

In 1973, she joined Cannan and Peterson solicitors as a law clerk. She was admitted as a barrister two years later, having completed the Bar exams with honours. She became an honorary secretary of the Queensland Bar Association in 1978 and served on its committee in 1993.

In 1984, while on sabbatical leave from the Bar, she completed her Master of Laws (LLM) at the University of Cambridge, where she was awarded the C.J. Hamson Prize in Comparative Law and the Jennings Prize. She was appointed as the first female Queen’s Counsel in Queensland in 1987 and was appointed a part-time Hearing Commissioner of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 1989.

In May 1993, Justice Kiefel was appointed to the Supreme Court of Queensland. The following year she was appointed by the Keating government as one of the first female judges on the Federal Court of Australia on October 17, 1994. Justice Kiefel was appointed a part-time Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission in 2003. She was appointed to the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island in 2004.

On August 13, 2007, Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock announced the appointment of Justice Kiefel to the High Court of Australia to replace the retiring High Court Justice Ian Callinan.

She is just the third female High Court Justice and the 46th overall with her appointment alongside incumbent the Honourable Justice Susan Crennan marking the first time two women have sat concurrently on the High Court bench.

She is an inspiration to younger people just starting out on their careers. She cites a positive outlook as being most essential especially when paired with a strong sense of self and time-management skills.

Justice Kiefel enjoys all kinds of music from Bach to Hendrix as well as the performing arts. True to this, she has been a council member of the Queensland Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2003 and a Fellow since 2007 and Chair of the Southern Cross Soloists Advisory Board from 2003 to 2007.

Chancellor, in recognition of her distinguished career, I present to you The Honourable Justice Susan Kiefel (Master of Laws from the University of Cambridge), for the award of Doctor of Laws honoris causa bestowed by the Senate of The University of Queensland.


Doctor of Laws honoris causa