Ceremonial Sitting of the Full Court

For the Swearing In and Welcome of the Honourable Justice Markovic

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9.30 AM, MONDAY, 24 AUGUST 2015

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MARKOVIC J: Chief Justice, I have the honour to announce that I have received a Commission from the Administrator of the Commonwealth of Australia, appointing me a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia. I now present my Commission.

ALLSOP CJ: Thank you, Justice Markovic. Registrar, please read the Commission.

THE REGISTRAR: Commission of appointment of a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia. I, the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC QC, administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council and under section 72 of the Constitution and subsection 6(1) of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976, appoint Brigitte Sandra Markovic to be a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia, assigned to the Sydney Registry, commencing on 24 August 2015, until she attains the age of 70 years, signed and sealed with the great seal of Australia on 6 August 2015, Paul de Jersey administrator, by his Excellency's command, George Brandis QC, Attorney-General.

ALLSOP CJ: Justice Markovic, I now invite you to take the oath of allegiance and office.

MARKOVIC J: I, Brigitte Sandra Markovic, do swear that I will bear true allegiance to her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors according to law, that I will well and truly serve her in the Office of Judge of the Federal Court of Australia, and that I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill will, so help me God.

ALLSOP CJ: Thank you. I invite you to subscribe to the oath you have just taken.

Registrar, I hand you the formal oath for recording, together with the Commission, in the records of the Court.

Congratulations, Justice Markovic.

Justice Markovic, on behalf of the Court and all the Judges of the Court, including and in particular the Justices of the Sydney Registry, welcome to the Court. We all look forward to working with you in the years to come.

Ms Fierravanti-Wells representing the Attorney

MS C. FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: May it please the Court. As Parliamentary Secretary to both the Attorney-General and the Minister for Social Services, it is my great pleasure to be here today on behalf of the Government to welcome the Honourable Justice Brigitte Markovic to the Bench of the Federal Court of Australia. I congratulate your Honour on your appointment and offer my heartfelt best wishes as you take up this important role. The Attorney-General, Senator the Honourable George Brandis QC, regrets that his ministerial commitments prevent his attendance at this auspicious occasion. He has asked me to convey his sincerest congratulations to your Honour on your appointment.

I would like to start by acknowledging the presence in the Court today of the Honourable Justice Stephen Gageler of the High Court of Australia; the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, the Honourable James Allsop AO; the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the Honourable Tom Bathurst AC; many current and former Judges of Federal and State Courts; and the many members of the legal profession. It is a testament to the esteem in which your Honour is held that so many distinguished members of the judiciary and the legal profession and other dignitaries are present today. I also wish to welcome the members of your Honour's family, who proudly share this special occasion with you: your mother, Renée; your husband, Jonathan, who joins us at the Bar table; your two children, Edmund and Thomasina; and your sister, Tania, and her family.

In my role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services, I am responsible for multicultural affairs and settlement services. About 45 per cent of Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was born overseas. Since 1945, we have welcomed 7.5 million migrants to Australia. They have come from the four corners of the earth and contributed to the rich tapestry of multicultural Australia. Your Honour, like me, is a first generation Australian. Our parents came to this country to build a better life for themselves and for their children. Your parents migrated from Europe, and I understand your father came from what is now the Slovak Republic, and your mother is from France. Your Honour's success is the embodiment of that successful migrant story.

You were born and raised in Sydney. Your Honour went on to attend Ascham School in the eastern suburbs. I understand that your father frequently suggested that you were destined to study medicine. I too had a father who wanted me to study medicine. However, like your Honour, my interests lay elsewhere. Your Honour was an accomplished public speaker, and only one of a few female debaters at school. In fact, such was your Honour's eloquence that you were regularly asked to compete in debates for older age groups. Ultimately, your Honour chose to study something in which you had a great interest: the law. I understand that you thought studying the law would not only utilise your incisive analytic skills, but also provide a broader education.

Your Honour graduated from the University of New South Wales with a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Laws in 1987. That year must have been a fine year for lawyers, as you graduated with our Attorney-General here in New South Wales, the Honourable Gabrielle Upton MP. Even after graduating, your Honour's pursuit of a legal career was not a certainty, as you also considered a career as a banker. However, your Honour's curiosity about practising law won the day and you began working as a solicitor. We are indeed grateful that this was your decision. Your Honour's legal career commenced in 1988 in Sydney, as a solicitor at the leading commercial firm Clayton Utz. Can I acknowledge your Honour's former colleagues from Clayton Utz present here today.

Your Honour's areas of practice and expertise have included administrative law, corporations law, directors' and officers' duties, professional negligence, commissions of inquiry, securities, enforcement and insolvency. In 1997, at the age of only 32, your Honour became a partner at Clayton Utz and was the National Managing Partner for litigation and dispute resolution for four years, from 2010 to 2014. A regular recipient of awards, your Honour has been recognised as a leader in the field of dispute resolution by both the Chambers Asia-Pacific and Chambers Global Directories, and was voted by your peers as one of Australia's best lawyers in litigation from 2009 to 2015, public law from 2014 to 2015, regulatory practice from 2013 to 2015, and alternative dispute resolution in 2015.

Your Honour's extensive experience is gained from the significant involvement you have had in some of the most high profile litigation in recent years in the areas of corporations law and directors' and officers' duties. Your Honour acted for the Australian Securities and Investment Commission at the HIH Royal Commission, following the collapse of HIH Insurance Limited, a case known for its exposure of the worst excesses of corporate greed. Later your Honour went on to act for the liquidators against the auditors in that matter. Your Honour also acted for ASIC in the civil penalties prosecution of the directors and officers in the equally well-known James Hardie Industries matter. Against at least 12 defendants and seven law firms, your Honour's team was outnumbered on a daily basis by two or three to one, yet your Honour never wavered. The daily barrage of letters from opposing counsel never went unanswered.

Your Honour's tenacity and commitment to leading by example was evident when you worked with your subordinates, often into the early hours of the morning to get the job done. Your Honour's dedication to your legal career has been pursued with constant, consistent great wit and good humour, always remaining calm, cool and collected. Such is your Honour's commitment to your work, that having fallen down the stairs one day at work, I understand your Honour continued to work the full day before going home, cooking for a dinner party. Only then did you make your way to hospital to have your broken collarbone treated. Developing young people and assisting those studying law is something to which your Honour is strongly committed. You have been actively involved in coaching the Ascham School team competing in the Law Society of New South Wales mock-trial competition. Your Honour's colleagues have always been impressed by your ability to manage a heavy workload while still finding time to mentor junior solicitors and inspire them to excellence.

Outside the law and in the limited spare time you have, I understand that your Honour enjoys cooking of all styles of cuisine, reading and skiing and spending time with your family, in particular, your son, Edmund, a budding soccer player and your daughter, Thomasina, an aspiring actress. In fact, I understand your Honour is such an accomplished cook, perhaps as a result of travelling widely as a child, that I understand you have the confidence to present new dishes for the first time at dinner parties, accompanied, of course, by a wine chosen expertly by your husband Jonathan. I must say, your Honour, the Fierravanti-Wells household does share a similar passion for good food and wine, such an important thing. I also understand that your Honour's diligence and determination extends to the ski slopes, though perhaps not quite with the same skill level, as I am sure will be applied to the Bench.

Australia's success as one of the most culturally diverse and socially cohesive nations in the world stems from our adherence to key values, which underpin Australian society and those values include the respect of the freedom and dignity of the individual, the equality of men and women and commitment to the rule of law. Today, a new chapter of your Honour's legal career unfolds, as you move from litigator to arbitrator. As a Judge, your Honour has the important role of ensuring that all people and institutions are subject to and accountable to the law. Fair application and enforcement of Australia's laws is a cornerstone on which Australia's continuing success depends. You are one of Australia's most highly respected commercial litigators and I am sure that your Honour will prove to be an outstanding addition to the Bench of the Federal Court. Your broad experience, prodigious work ethic and incisive analytical skills will definitely serve you well on the bench. On behalf of the Australian Government, I extend to you my warmest congratulations and welcome to the Federal Court of Australia, may it please the Court.

ALLSOP CJ: Thank you. Mr Stuart Clark, on behalf of the Law Council of Australia.

MR S. CLARK AM: May it please the Court, it's a great privilege to speak at your Honour's swearing in on behalf of the Law Council of Australia and its constituent bodies, the Australian Bars, the Australian Law Societies and Law Firms Australia, perhaps better known as the large Law Firm Group. But in doing so, I am also very proud to say that I speak to you as a former partner of yours at Clayton Utz. Your Honour joined the firm 27 years ago, fresh out of university, after a successful summer clerkship. Your former partners have seen you develop into both an outstanding lawyer and a leader in every sense of the word.

We are sad to see you go, but your leaving is the firm's loss and the community's gain. We have heard Senator Fierravanti-Wells describe your Honour's journey to this place and some of the career highlights that have earned you consistent recognition as one of Australia's best lawyers. However, I come armed with something else – your personnel file. As your Honour knows, solicitors file note everything and then keep those file notes forever. For some, such material could be deadly, but not for your Honour. Indeed, the word that crops up most frequently in your file is "outstanding". The phrase most often used is "good judgment" and the quality most often cited is that she is fearless and that is not surprising considering your pedigree.

Both your parents, Rudi and Renée, are survivors of the Holocaust. Your father, Rudi, evaded the Nazis in Eastern Europe until he had the chance to escape that horror with his brother, Frank. They were heading for South America by boat until Frank had a premonition that the ship would sink. Fortunately for us, he persuaded Rudi that Australia was a better option. Your mother, Renee, who is here with us today, was a young girl living in Paris when the war broke out. She survived because she took refuge in a convent as the German Army closed in. They later met in Montreal, married in Hawaii and then settled in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

They sent their two daughters, your Honour and your sister Tania, now a medical specialist to Ascham. After that, it was a Commerce Law Degree at the University of New South Wales and then to Clayton Utz, albeit by the way of Gucci. Your Honour had worked at Gucci and the company provided a predictably glowing reference, one of many, all of which are still on your file. You joined Clayton Utz in 1988 and within six months your potential had been recognised. Your Honour's then supervising partner, Ian Carroll, recorded that "even at this early stage, I feel confident of predicting a successful career for her in the law". He was right.

Just over four years later, you were a senior associate and in 1997, aged just 32, you became one of the youngest partners in the firm. Your Honour quickly developed a practice in corporations law matters. No matter how busy you were, no one ever saw you anything other than in control. One of the barristers who worked with you at this time was Michael Slattery QC, now a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. A file note from your file records Justice Slattery as describing your Honour to your former partners as "brilliant and always in control".

He went on to say that Ms Markovic :is one of the best solicitors who instructs me and one of the best you've got". He added that "with your grace under pressure and tactical acumen your Honour would have been a great military commander". ASIC had a similar view during your Honour's year on secondment with the regulator, reporting that you were "one of our outstanding lawyers and highly valued for the incisive quality of your work". It was little wonder that your Honour was later retained to act for ASIC in the HIH and James Hardie litigation.

Now, at this point it's my duty of disclosure to the Court, which compels me to reveal that I was able to find one adverse comment on your record. Tucked away in your file is a note from a certain Mr Schafer, your then supervising partner. He reported your Honour's persistent failure to de-number. Now, a failure to archive files, and that is what it is a reference to, is a serious matter for an aspiring partner in Clayton Utz. Perhaps in an effort to distance yourself from this failing, your Honour made the ultimate sacrifice and moved to Canberra. With Brian Wilson, you introduced the firm to the Federal Government and developed a practice across a broad range of areas, including Immigration, Social Security and Aged Care.

You developed a real expertise in administrative law and helped to develop the firm's practice in that area. The Senator has rightly pointed to HIH and James Hardie as matters of significant moment in your Honour's career, both lasted around five years and helped to define the law in relation to corporate insolvency and directors' duties. Nothing was too hard for your Honour in those cases, as the Senator has referred to, with 12 simultaneous defendants bombarding you with letters. But not content with your role in some of the most challenging litigation in the country, your Honour chose that time to marry Jonathan and have two children, Edmund and Thomasina.

Notwithstanding these wonderful events, the litigation never missed a beat, a testament to the extraordinary team that you and your good friend and partner, Karen O'Flynn, had developed. In 2010, you took on the most difficult role at any law firm, management. Now, some say that managing partners in law firms is like herding cats. They are wrong, herding cats is much easier. And so it was in 2010 that your Honour joined the Clayton Utz senior leadership team as managing partner of the litigation, dispute and resolution practice. Now, your Honour proved to be a particularly good cat wrangler and the litigation practice went from strength to strength, but more importantly, leaders set the tone of organisations they lead.

Good leaders build a culture by the way they act and example they set. In your role as managing partner, you set an example as a senior lawyer with a busy professional life, who is not afraid to take time out for their children, to even leave the office to go to an event at school or something like that. Now, this may sound like a small issue, but it's leaders that set examples like that that help make the workplace a better place for us all. Indeed, your Honour has a rich life outside the law, as the Senator has already alluded to. Your enjoy theatre, classical music and the visual arts. I am told that you have even developed an interest in sport beyond skiing, though only if your children are playing it.

You are admired for your stylish dress sense, which sometimes reflects your favour TV series, Mad Men, and in that respect we're most concerned. The Gucci Girl will now have to settle for a single black robe, albeit with a fetching sash. Your Honour's areas of expertise, administrative law, insolvency and commercial litigation, make you a perfect fit for this Court and its progressive approach to case management and specialised litigation. The Law Council welcomes the appointment of judges from different backgrounds, especially when they are lawyers of the calibre of Justice Brigitte Markovic. Your Honour, we look forward to the contribution that you will make to this Court and to the people it serves, may it please the Court.

ALLSOP CJ: Mr Moses, of the New South Wales and Australian Bars.

MR A. MOSES SC: May it please the Court, Justice Markovic, the Australian Bar Association and the New South Wales Bar Association warmly welcome your appointment as a justice of the Federal Court. The president of the New South Wales Bar Association, Jane Needham SC, has asked me to pass on her apologies for not being able to be present and also to pass on her sincere congratulations. I, too, acknowledge the distinguished guests in attendance today and I pay my respects on behalf of the Bar to the Gadigal people, the traditional owners of the land on which this Court now stands. Your Honour, in deference to my place in the speaking order and the paucity of time, my purpose is to provide a distillation of the praise from members of the Bench and Bar whom you have worked with over the years.

By now the agreed facts are that your Honour is a highly accomplished and respected commercial litigator, one with all the requisite personal qualities – intelligence, efficiency, pragmatism and resilience. According to one former solicitor at Clayton Utz, now at the Bar, your Honour ran matters with beautiful efficiency. These admirable qualities are tempered by composure at all times. Indeed, evidence of such composure is demonstrated by an incident that occurred at 4.30 pm on the Friday prior to the commencement of the James Hardie matter. Your husband, Jonathan Kay-Hoyle – who, despite his clumsiness, we claim as one of our own at the New South Wales Bar – fell down the steps outside Governor Macquarie Tower and shattered his elbow.

There is a theme here. I was not aware of the Senator's reference to your own fall. Your Honour accompanied Jonathan in the ambulance to the emergency section of St Vincent's Hospital and, by his bedside, continued preparations for the trial with the aid of your BlackBerry, giving strict instructions by phone and email to your legal team, which included Justice Robert Beech-Jones, who joins us today. Nobody I have spoken to can recall a single instance where your Honour has raised your voice, although some did say you signal mild displeasure by speaking slowly and with greater emphasis. And I will have to watch out for that when appearing before your Honour. Some of your new colleagues are not so subtle.

I am told that one such instance occurred when, on your way to an urgent late conference, you were overheard in a phone conversation with your husband, in which you delivered instructions for cooking some potatoes. And I will have to ask your children, who are with us today, whether dad knows now how to cook potatoes. Whilst on matters of demeanour, I am told by many of your honest former colleagues that the only time they have seen your eyes glaze over was at the mere mention of organised sport. When your Honour's son, Edmund, ran onto the soccer field you needed advice as to which direction Edmund was supposed to be running and whether he should be holding the ball or kicking it with his feet.

Indeed, I imagine if Edmund, who was a Sydney Roosters NRL fan – and we won't hold that against him – told you that the Roosters were currently on top of the ladder, you would probably say, "Where did you see roosters climbing on a ladder?" To be sure, the James Hardie and HIH litigation, which others have spoken about, were mammoth cases. But to complete the portrait, I should add that your Honour is a fine administrative lawyer with deep experience in many aspects of public law. We heard that between 1997 and 2000 your Honour established the firm's government services group in Canberra. There, you ran a wide range of public law cases, including a large portfolio for the Minister for Immigration.

By my imperfect count, there were six High Court appeals in which you had involvement. If the Australian Government is to be considered a model litigant then there needs to be a model litigator. By all accounts, your Honour fulfils that role with distinction. One person familiar with your work at the time described you as the perfect lawyer for a minister. You were aware of the political pressures concerning matters but at all times you gave fearless and frank advice. You were also fair and conscious of the disparity and resources between parties to a dispute, which is very important, of course, in immigration matters. Something of particular importance to the New South Wales Bar that I wish to make special mention of is your recent work on that Bar's equitable briefing working party on which we both served.

Your Honour will be pleased to know that the report of the group has been approved by the New South Wales Bar Council and delivered to the Law Council, which will use it as the foundation for national consultation and revised equitable briefing policy. The president of the New South Wales Bar will make that report public this week, which, whilst raising serious concerns about the difficulties confronting women at the New South Wales Bar, proposes concrete solutions rather than mere platitudes. Your Honour's contribution to the working party was invaluable and the New South Wales Bar is grateful for your assistance. Indeed, your Honour's work on equitable briefing affords an insight into another of your Honour's overlooked contributions to the profession.

An article in The Australian, titled, "Sharper focus on staff pays dividends", featured your Honour discussing collegiality and staff development programs at Clayton Utz. The article accords with the widespread impression that you have a keen eye for talent and bringing out the best in those who worked with you. One partner at Clayton Utz summed this up more eloquently than I ever could:

Her Honour is not the sum of the files she did but the effect she had, the sponsorship she gave, the training she deployed, the self-belief she instilled and the guidance she gave to others.

Another member of the firm, now at the Bar, said:

Your Honour encouraged young practitioners to fly to wherever their dreams might take them.

It is unclear what the human resources department at Clayton Utz thought about this when these people followed their dreams to another organisation or the Bar, as they inevitably did. And indeed, one of your Honour's protégés was a young woman who recently featured in the New South Wales Law Society Journal as the Chief Executive Officer of Justice Mission, who travelled to India and lived there for some years, freeing modern-day slaves from their employers. Justice Markovic, you rose to the most senior ranks of the solicitors branch of the profession and cemented your position as one of the country's leading litigators. Regrettably, the Bar could not lure you to its ranks, leaving no more worlds to conquer, except, that is, for the Bench.

Justice Markovic, the Bar is confident that you are well-equipped to handle the complex, important and varied cases that come within the jurisdiction of this Court. We congratulate you. We wish you every success and look forward to working with you in your new role. May it please the Court.

ALLSOP CJ: Mr Eades, New South Wales Law Society.

MR J. EADES: May it please the Court. I speak on behalf of the solicitors of New South Wales and of the Law Society of New South Wales, which I currently chair. It is a privilege and a pleasure to officially welcome your Honour to the judiciary and to congratulate you on your well-earned appointment and convey our best wishes on your elevation. It is not for me to repeat what has said before and I shall not, save and except that when Clayton Utz announced the news to their colleagues with extreme pride but noted it also was a great loss. With the number of the former partners here, there could be an impromptu partnership meeting, I'm sure.

However, upon hearing the news of your elevation, the president of the Bar of New South Wales congratulated you on Twitter – a dangerous activity – as a litigator extraordinaire and, we believe, a judge extraordinaire. It also has a nice ring to it and it will be used to describe your work very shortly. I also did my articles at "Clutz" but left as soon as I graduated and came to the law. But at "Clutz" – and I can refer to them as that and Stuart won't kick me in the shoulders, I hope – you have been lauded for your pragmatic commonsense – unlike Stuart, I didn't have access to the personnel file – and for being particularly able, wonderful, very talented and a great administrator of complicated proceedings.

You have been further praised as highly intelligent, analytical, calm, rational, consistent, sensible, hard-working, self-effacing, fair, even-handed and supportive – no small accolades for one human being. One colleague has said:

What I think is most admirable about Brigitte is that she is flexible in her thinking but rigid in her values.

Your Honour has good judgment about people and inspires them to loyalty and Stuart has mentioned that in a very clear way. You are generous to your friends from all phases of your life, good at keeping in touch and remembering birthdays – a singular skill, even with Google. You are described as a friend who is always there to help, honest, generous, supportive and loyal. However, the local baristas will have to get used to an order for three-quarters-filled skim coffee. More importantly, we are pleased to congratulate you on being the third woman appointed to this bench, after Margaret Stone and Kathleen Farrell – that is, both from Freehills. This makes the Federal Court exemplary, not only for promoting women but solicitors.

In fact, the Court has now the highest percentage of women on a superior court – save and except the Family Court – and the largest number of those appointed directly from my branch. The appointment of a solicitor is no small thing in the Federal Court. It recognises that solicitors are equal across the Bar table in every respect. It also improves diversity and strengthens and deepens the role of the Court and the respect in which it is held. This is a natural progression from your leading role at Clayton Utz, and it promotes diversity, which is pace setting in Australian industry, and successfully encouraging women's leadership. Today's appointment is a stellar accomplishment, yet your colleagues have stated that your appointment is entirely understandable, given your contributions and great skill as a litigator, that it represents the recognition and challenge that you deserve. On behalf of the Solicitors of New South Wales, I wish you well. As the Court pleases.

ALLSOP CJ: Thank you. Justice Markovic.

MARKOVIC J: Chief Justice, Justice Gageler, Chief Justice Bathurst, fellow Judges, distinguished guests, my family, friends, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to thank you all sincerely for attending this ceremony today. I am both honoured and humbled by your presence.

May I start by thanking Senator the Honourable Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Stuart Clark, Arthur Moses SC, and John Eades. In respect of their somewhat extravagant praise, I have decided that my first decision, reluctantly, will be to take judicial notice of its accuracy. Thank you again for what you have said.

I am naturally a shy person, somewhat unaccustomed to being the centre of attention. You have heard a lot about me this morning, perhaps a little too much. So this is an appropriate and fitting opportunity to acknowledge publicly the many important influences of others that have shaped my life.

It starts with my family; you have heard a little about them already. The foundation of that family was, in my eyes, two remarkable people: my late father, Rudi, and my mother, Renée. My father, against all odds, survived the Second World War, as you have heard, by hiding with his family in the woods and fighting with local partisans in what is now Slovakia. Having survived the war, he returned to his hometown, hoping for a life of stability, but the advent of communism caused him to uproot himself once more. This time he left without his parents.

He left his parents behind and he went with his older brother, heading west to Paris. Having been granted refugee status, the two brothers came almost as far south as they could, arriving in Sydney in 1949. What they found here was what every refugee dreams of: a country of peace, political stability and opportunity. My mother, who is here today, met my father in 1960.

My mother had a similarly difficult childhood, as you have heard. Having returned to Paris after the war, she was on a working holiday in Montreal when, through a mutual acquaintance, my father contacted her. I think my father's proposal could not be bettered. He met my mother on 4 May and proposed to her on the 5th. My mother took a little time to decide. They were married on 21 May. Their marriage, borne of lives that had endured much suffering, was an act of faith in the possibility of the future, an act of faith that lasted for 51 years.

My sister Tania and I were brought up with a few fundamental values: accept people for who they are, be tolerant and respectful of all, and always strive to achieve your best. Most importantly for our father, we were to be independent in thought, spirit, and, being a practical man, financially. For my parents, the way to achieve independence was through a rigorous education and vocational training, things that could not be taken away.

As you have heard, my father believed that the best career, particularly for a woman, was to be a doctor. My sister, rebellious in many things, was dutiful when it came to choosing her future path, and enrolled in, qualified and became a success in medicine. I, on the other hand, a quiet and obedient child, rebelled in one way: recognising that the only quality I had to be a doctor was my poor handwriting, I applied to study law and gained a place in the combined Commerce/Law course at the University of New South Wales.

I completed my degree in 1987 and started working at Clayton Utz on 7 November 1988. For those who like numbers, I was at the firm for 26 years, nine months and two weeks, or just on 53 per cent of my life. It has been my only job in the law until now. I joined as a wide-eyed newly admitted solicitor, not sure what to expect. I thought I might spend only a few years in the law; I was wrong. The firm became my second home; the partners and senior associates for whom I worked in the early days, my teachers; and my fellow solicitors became my friends. In turn, I was the teacher; my fellow solicitors, my friends and partners and the solicitors and others who joined the firm, my colleagues. I am delighted to see so many of my now former partners and colleagues here today.

Although I had a brief flirtation with corporate law, it was a move to the litigation section of the firm in 1989 that determined the path of my career.

Over my years in practice, I was blessed to work for and with some outstanding lawyers. To my teachers and mentors and, indeed, friends, Ron Schaffer, Tony Vero, David Cowling, Brian Wilson and Darryl McDonough, thank you. To my colleagues who went through the ranks with me and who were my partners, advisors, supporters and confidantes, and with whom I have shared the highs and lows of many of the past years, Karen O'Flynn, Steven Klimt, Narelle Smythe, Zac Chami, Graham Taylor and Steve O'Reilly, I could not have done it without you. To my loyal team members, who have worked so hard to get the job done and make me look good, I am indebted to you. There are too many of you to mention, but I must single out Svetlana Zarucki and Sharon Burnett, who have uncomplainingly stood beside me and turned their hands to whatever was asked of them for over 10 years. Finally, to my brilliantly organised, efficient and loyal personal assistant, Danielle Ienna, who has made sure that I was always in the right place at the right time, and that I appeared to be more organised than I truly am, thank you.

In my formative years as a solicitor, I spent some time doing my own advocacy. I cut my teeth in the then commercial division of the Supreme Court. On my first ever outing one Friday, the senior associate who I accompanied gave me a few tips: be well acquainted with your matter, attempt to agree directions with your opponent, and the fewer the questions you get from the judge, the greater the mark of a successful morning. I watched in awe as my senior associate announced his appearance, handed up short minutes and then sat down. The orders were made. As we walked back to the office, the senior associate, after telling me what a good job he had done, told me that I would appear in that matter at subsequent directions hearings. I did, not only in that matter but in dozens of others. My track record was not always as good as that of my teacher. There was many a Friday when I had to do much more than announce my appearance, when I returned to the office with orders that were not anticipated, or when I found myself facing a hearing date for the following week.

The controlled theatricality of the courtroom was appealing to someone like me, who had spent many of my teenage years in school theatrical productions. It taught me many things, perhaps most notably when to say yes gracefully, when to say no politely, and, when all else fails, when to sit down quietly. I learned that there is no idea that cannot be improved by clear expression and listening to those you seek to persuade. I learned the flexibility and creativity from never quite knowing what is coming next.

Of course, on many occasions I left the advocacy to the true experts. I have indeed been lucky to work with many talented members of the bar. Today is an opportunity for me to also thank you.

There is a long list, but I particularly want to thank his Honour, Justice Slattery, who, when at the Bar, so many times took a brief on hearing at short notice, when after a Friday morning's list I returned with a hearing date sometimes only days away; John Marshall SC, who as a junior at the Bar taught me the dark art of the chronological bundle, and that meticulous attention to detail would always win the day; his Honour, Justice Beech-Jones, who as a senior counsel was indefatigable, brilliant and prepared to sleep on the floor of his chambers in order to get the job done; Tony Bannon SC, the very essence of the charismatic barrister, who convinced me that surfing and advocacy are not incompatible pastimes, and also showed me what the art of cross-examination could accomplish; and to Sarah Pritchard SC, who was at times almost as retiring as I am, but whose insight, analytical skill and grace were exemplary, even in moments of extreme stress.

Despite the many hours that I was at work, there always remained time for a small circle of great friends. I won't embarrass them by naming them all, but two stand out: Kate Cato, with whom I have been friends since training to be a solicitor, and Ellen Farmer-Maloney, who I first met in my formative years of Clayton Utz. For someone like me, who tends to say less rather than more, it is a great thing to have a friend who says more rather than less. Kate fitted the bill. My friendship with Ellen was forged in the peculiar twilight world of working late at a law firm. For someone like me, who tends to hold back rather than jump in, it is a great thing to have a friend who jumped into everything with liberating enthusiasm. Ellen fitted the bill.

Finally, there is my family. To my mother, thank you for the sacrifices you made to give me the enormous opportunities I have had. To my sister, Tania, a great supporter and ever-willing advisor, thank you. Also here today are my niece and nephew, Frederik and Amelia Nielssen, my brother-in-law, Olav Nielssen, and my sister-in-law, Frances Booth. They have all been a source of support, generosity and fun. They make up our compact family, along with three very special people, who have generously allowed me to get here today. They are, of course, my husband, Jonathan, and my two children, Edmund and Thomasina. I came to marriage and motherhood relatively late, but this phase of my life has without doubt been the most rewarding.

I know that I have my greatest fan and supporter in Jonathan, and we have a truly equal relationship. To my children, Edmund and Thomasina, despite your young ages, seeing the world through your eyes has taught me more than you can know. Your hugs at the end of the day make even the hardest day all the more the manageable.

Today I have the honour of joining this Court, but also the honour of becoming a colleague of many distinguished female judges. After the announcement of my appointment, I received a number of emails and cards from young women, who generously commented on the inspiration they took from my career. Every woman who becomes a partner of a law firm, becomes a Senior Counsel, or becomes a judge is a potent symbol of what women can achieve in our profession. I have been extraordinarily fortunate to work with supportive colleagues, both men and women, throughout my career. That good fortune extended to working with men who never regarded my gender as relevant to my progress in the profession. They properly judged me by how I did the job and no other measure. I recognise that is not always the case. To those young women who have written to me and others, I would like to say with skill, endurance, focus and some luck, you can achieve what you strive for. Always seek to be judged by what you do.

This is a public occasion and the role I now embark on is a public office. It seems proper that I should say something briefly about the position that I now have the privilege to occupy. For those of you who are fond of judicial drama, many years ago the English playwright Terence Rattigan wrote a play, based on a real incident, called the "Winslow Boy". One of the heroes was a handsome, brilliant, articulate and slightly forbidding man called Sir Robert Morton. Naturally, he was a barrister. In one exchange, Sir Robert, talking about the court case which forms the central action of the play, says:

It is easy to do justice, but very hard to do right.

Although I have had some of my most fulfilling professional moments inside a courtroom, I recognise that for many a court can be an unsettling, stressful and slightly confusing place. I'm not entirely sure what Sir Robert's words meant, but I do know that, adapting those words, I will do my upmost to try and do justice and right according to law.

I thank all those present for their attendance and for listening to me.

ALLSOP CJ: The Court will now adjourn.