Chief Justice Kiefel: Farewell reflections.

Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC
In a ceremonial sitting on 16 October 2023, the High Court of Australia honoured the retirement of Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC. Speakers, including the President of the Australian Bar Association Mr Peter Dunning KC, emphasised her unwavering commitment to the profession, her exemplary conduct in court, and her vision for the future of women in law.

In her retirement speech, Chief Justice Kiefel reflected on her esteemed tenure and the broader reputation of the High Court, emphasising that "the public perception of the judges of the Court as independent is critical to the regard in which it is held." She stated she is "proud to have been a member of the Australian judiciary for the past 30 years" and touched on the trajectory of women in the legal profession.

Highlighting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Australian courts, Chief Justice Kiefel acknowledged that the virus and related public health measures caused significant disruption. She commended the courts and their staff for adapting to challenges, particularly in managing technology for remote hearings. Additionally, she praised the legal profession for their efforts in dealing with the demanding nature of such hearings.

She underlined the judiciary's pivotal role, asserting, "The existence of a competent, independent, impartial, dedicated and ethical judiciary is largely taken for granted in our society. It should not be."

On judgment writing, she advocated for "fewer judgments so that the Court is seen to speak with a stronger voice." Closing her speech, Chief Justice Kiefel expressed deep gratitude towards her colleagues, the Court's staff, and her family, offering her "most heartfelt thanks" to her husband, Michael.

For a comprehensive account of the speeches and Chief Justice Kiefel's farewell, please refer to the official transcript available on Austlii. A video recording of the ceremony is also available via the link below.

Watch video recording