The Hon Justice Susan Kiefel appointed to Australian High Court

Wolfson alumna Susan Kiefel, 53, will take up her appointment on September 3, replacing retiring Justice Ian Callinan. She will sit alongside Justice Susan Crennan, making it the first time Australia has had two female High Court judges at the same time.

Currently a Federal Court Justice, Susan has had a remarkable rise after leaving school at 15 and starting work in 1971 as a secretary in a law firm. By 1973, she had obtained a position as a legal clerk, and soon after completed both her Senior examination and Bar Board course, the latter with honours. Justice Kiefel came to the Bar in 1975. After almost ten years of vigorous practice at the Bar, she decided to give herself sabbatical leave in 1984. However, this year became a productive and intellectually stimulating sojourn, studying for her LLM at Wolfson College. During this period she developed an enduring interest in Comparative Law, and won both the University’s C J Hamson Prize for Comparative Law and the Jennings Prize from Wolfson College. Susan also threw herself into College life, and met her husband Michael Albrecht when she became a member of the College rowing crew; he was the coach. She remains very grateful for her time in Cambridge, and for the professors who reminded a “then jaded practitioner just how important and fascinating the process of law in society is.” In 1987, at the age of 33, Susan Kiefel was appointed Queensland’s first woman Queen’s Counsel, one of a select few then practising in Australia. She was subsequently appointed to the Commonwealth Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission in 1989, the Queensland Supreme Court in June 1993 and the Federal Court in October 1993. She has also held appointments in Australia as a judge of the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island in 2004 and a part-time commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission in 2004. In October 2001 she was appointed Deputy President of the Federal Police Disciplinary Tribunal and became its president in April 2004. Other appointments have reflected her commitment to the profession. She was, for instance, honorary secretary of the Bar Association of Queensland in 1978 and a member of its committee in 1993, before her appointment to the Supreme Court, and she was appointed chair of the Supreme Court Library Committee in 1994. Susan Kiefel returned to Wolfson as a visiting fellow in 2001, while on sabbatical leave from the Federal Court, to study the European Court of Justice, and she continues to maintain regular links with legal colleagues in Cambridge.