The HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA is the supreme court in the Australian
court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has
both original and appellate jurisdiction, the power of judicial review
over laws passed by the
Parliament of Australia
The High Court is mandated by Constitution section 71, which vests in
it the judicial power of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Court was
constituted by, and its first members were appointed under, the
Since 1979, The High Court has been located in
* 1 Role of the court
* 1.1 Original jurisdiction
* 1.2 Appellate jurisdiction
* 1.3 Appeals to the Privy Council
* 1.4 Appellate jurisdiction for
* 2 History
* 2.1 Constitutional conventions * 2.2 Formation of the court * 2.3 First years of the court * 2.4 Post-war period
* 3 Jurisprudence
* 3.1 Griffith court * 3.2 Knox, Isaacs and Gavan Duffy courts * 3.3 Latham court * 3.4 Dixon court * 3.5 Barwick court * 3.6 Gibbs court * 3.7 Mason court * 3.8 Brennan court * 3.9 Gleeson court * 3.10 French court
* 4 Composition of the court
* 4.1 Appointment process * 4.2 Current composition * 4.3 Initial composition * 4.4 Expansion of composition * 4.5 Recent developments in composition * 4.6 Judge\'s Associates
* 5 Facilities
* 5.1 Building * 5.2 Online
* 6 See also * 7 References * 8 Further reading * 9 External links
ROLE OF THE COURT
The High Court exercises both original jurisdiction (cases that
originate in the High Court) and appellate jurisdiction (appeals made
to the High Court from other courts). The High Court is the court of
final appeal with the ability to interpret the common law for the
whole of Australia, not just the state or territory in which the
matter arose. The High Court's broad jurisdiction is similar to that
Supreme Court of Canada
"The High Court's jurisdiction is divided in its exercise between constitutional and federal cases which loom so largely in the public eye, and the great body of litigation between man and man, or even man and government, which has nothing to do with the Constitution, and which is the principal preoccupation of the court."
This broad array of jurisdiction enables the High Court to take a leading role in Australian law and contributes to a consistency and uniformity among the laws of the different states.
The original jurisdiction of the High Court refers to matters that are originally heard in the High Court. The Constitution confers actual (section 75) and potential (section 76) original jurisdiction.
Section 75 of the Constitution confers original jurisdiction in regard to "all matters":
* arising under any treaty * affecting consuls or other representatives of other countries * in which the Commonwealth, or a person suing or being sued on behalf of the Commonwealth, is a party * between States, or between residents of different States, or between a State and a resident of another State * in which a writ of mandamus or prohibition or an injunction is sought against an officer of the Commonwealth.
The conferral of original jurisdiction creates some problems for the High Court. For example, challenges against immigration-related decisions are often brought against an officer of the Commonwealth within the original jurisdiction of the High Court.
Section 76 provides that Parliament may confer original jurisdiction in relation to matters:
* arising under the constitution or involving its interpretation * arising under any laws made by the Parliament * of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction * relating to the same subject matter claimed under the laws of different states.
Constitutional matters, referred to in section 76(i), have been
conferred to the High Court by section 30 of the
The requirement of "a matter" in section 75 and section 76 of the constitution means that a concrete issue must need to be resolved and the High Court cannot give an advisory opinion.
AUSTRALIAN COURT HIERARCHY
FEDERAL LAW COURTS
* High Court of Australia
Federal Court of Australia
* Commonwealth courts and tribunals
COURTS OF AUSTRALIAN STATES AND TERRITORIES
New South Wales
The High Court's appellate jurisdiction is defined under Section 73
of the Constitution. The High Court can hear appeals from the Supreme
Courts of the states and territories , any federal court or court
exercising federal jurisdiction (such as the Federal Court of
However, section 73 allows the appellate jurisdiction to be limited
"with such exceptions and subject to such regulations as the
Parliament prescribes". Parliament has prescribed a large limitation
in section 35A of the
APPEALS TO THE PRIVY COUNCIL
High Court building
The issue of appeals from the High Court to the United Kingdom's
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
Section 74 of the Constitution, as enacted by the Imperial Parliament, prohibited appeals on constitutional matters involving disputes about the limits inter se of Commonwealth or state powers, except where the High Court certified it was appropriate for the appeal to be determined by the Privy Council. It did so only once: in the 1912 case of Colonial Sugar Refining Co Ltd v Attorney-General (Cth) when the Court was equally divided. After that case, in which the Privy Council refused to answer the constitutional questions put to it, the High Court never certified another inter se appeal. Indeed, in the case of Kirmani v Captain Cook Cruises Pty Ltd (1985), the court said that it would never again grant a certificate of appeal.
In general matters, however, section 74 did not prevent the Privy
Council from granting leave to appeal against the High Court's wishes
and the Council did so often. In some cases the Council acknowledged
that the Australian common law had developed differently from English
law and thus did not apply its own principles (for example, in
Australian Consolidated Press Ltd v Uren (1967), or in Viro v The
Queen (1978)), by using a legal fiction that stated that different
common law can apply to different circumstances. However, in other
cases, the Privy Council enforced English decisions, over-ruling
decisions by the High Court. In Parker v The Queen (1963), Chief
Owen Dixon led a unanimous judgment that rejected a
precedent of the House of Lords in DPP v Smith saying, "I shall not
depart from the law on this matter as we have long since laid it down
in this Court and I think that Smith's case should not be used in
Section 74 did provide that the parliament could make laws to prevent
appeals to the Privy Council and it did so, beginning in 1968, with
the Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals) Act 1968, which closed off
all appeals to the Privy Council in matters involving federal
legislation. In 1975, the Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court)
Act 1975 was passed, which had the effect of closing all routes of
appeal from the High Court. Appeals from the High Court to the Privy
Council are now only theoretically possible in inter se matters if the
High Court grants a certificate of appeal under section 74 of the
Constitution. As noted above, the High Court indicated in 1985 it
would not grant such a certificate in the future and it is practically
certain that all future High Courts will maintain this policy. In
1986, with the passing of the
Thirteen High Court judges have heard cases as part of the Privy Council. Sir Isaac Isaacs is the only judge to have sat on an appeal from the High Court, in 1936 after his retirement as Governor-General. Sir Garfield Barwick insisted on an amendment to Privy Council procedure to allow dissent, however he exercised that only once. The appeals mostly related to decisions from other Commonwealth countries, although they occasionally included appeals from a State Supreme Court.
APPELLATE JURISDICTION FOR NAURU
As per an agreement between
The genesis of the court can be traced back to the middle of the 19th century. Before the establishment of the High Court, appeals from the state Supreme Courts could be made only to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which involved the great expense of travelling to London. For this reason some politicians in the colonies wanted a new court that could travel between the colonies hearing appeals.
Following Earl Grey 's 1846 proposal for federation of the Australian
colonies, an 1849 report from the Privy Council of the United Kingdom
suggested that a national court be created. In 1856, the then
Governor of South Australia ,
Richard Graves MacDonnell
At an inter-colonial conference in 1870 in
In 1880 another inter-colonial conference was convened, which proposed the establishment of an Australasian Court of Appeal. This conference was more firmly focussed on having an Australian court. Another draft bill was produced, providing that judges from the colonial Supreme Courts would serve one-year terms on the new court, with one judge from each colony at a given time. New Zealand, which was at the time also considering joining the Australian colonies in federation, was also to be a participant in the new court. However, the proposal retained appeals from colonial Supreme Courts to the Privy Council, which some of the colonies disputed, and the bill was eventually abandoned.
The Constitutional Conventions of the 1890s, which met to draft an
Australian Constitution, also raised the idea of a federal Supreme
Court. Initial proposals at a conference in
This draft was largely the work of Sir
Samuel Griffith , then the
Premier of Queensland , later Chief Justice of
At the later conventions, in
After the draft had been approved by the electors of the colonies, it
was taken to London in 1899, for the assent of the British Imperial
Parliament. However the issue of Privy Council appeals remained a
sticking point with a number of Australian and British politicians,
Secretary of State for the Colonies , Joseph Chamberlain
, the Chief Justice of South Australia, Sir
After intense lobbying both in
FORMATION OF THE COURT
The first Chief Justice of Australia , Sir Samuel Griffith , is administered the judicial oath at the first sitting of the High Court, in the Banco Court of the Supreme Court of Victoria , 6 October 1903.
The Constitution was passed by the Imperial Parliament, and came into
effect on 1 January 1901. However, the High Court was not established
immediately; it was necessary for the new
Parliament of Australia
In 1902, the then Attorney-General
Alfred Deakin introduced the
At one point, Deakin even threatened to resign as Attorney-General due to the difficulties he faced. In what is now a famous speech, Deakin gave a second reading to the House of Representatives , lasting three and a half hours, in which he declared:
"The federation is constituted by distribution of powers, and it is this court which decides the orbit and boundary of every power... It is properly termed the keystone of the federal arch... The statute stands and will stand on the statute-book just as in the hour in which it was assented to. But the nation lives, grows and expands. Its circumstances change, its needs alter, and its problems present themselves with new faces. enables the Constitution to grow and be adapted to the changeful necessities and circumstances of generation after generation that the High Court operates."
Deakin's friend, painter
FIRST YEARS OF THE COURT
The court's home between 1928 and 1980, the purpose-built
courtroom in Little Bourke Street,
After the court's first sitting in the Banco Court in
The court travelled to other cities across the country, where it did
not have any facilities of its own but used facilities of the Supreme
Court in each city. Deakin had envisaged that the court would sit in
many different locations, so as to truly be a federal court. Shortly
after the court's creation, Chief Justice Griffith established a
schedule for sittings in state capitals:
Sittings were dependent on the caseload and to this day sittings in
World War II
From 1952, with the appointment of Sir
Owen Dixon as Chief Justice,
the court entered a period of stability. After World War II, the
court's workload continued to grow, particularly from the 1960s
onwards, putting pressures on the court. Sir
Garfield Barwick , who
was Attorney-General from 1958 to 1964, and from then until 1981 Chief
Justice, proposed that more federal courts be established, as
permitted under the Constitution. In 1976 the Federal Court of
In 1968, appeals to the Privy Council in matters involving federal
legislation were barred by the Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals)
Act 1968. In 1975, the Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court) Act
1975 closed all routes of appeal from the High Court. In 1986, with
the passing of the
The life tenure of High Court Justices was ended in 1977. A national referendum in May 1977 approved the Constitution Alteration (Retirement of Judges) Act (Cth), which upon its commencement on 29 July 1977 amended Constitution section 72 so as require that all Justices appointed from then on must retire on attaining the age of 70 years.
The High Court of
The legal history of the court is commonly summarised by reference to the Chief Justice of the time. While it is a convenient way of breaking the history of the Court into periods, it tends to overstate the importance of the Chief Justice and ignores the influence and tenure of other members of the Court. For example, Isaacs J was the primary force in the Knox Court, while the time of his own appointment as Chief Justice saw the emergence of Dixon J as the new intellectual leader of the Court.
Sir Isaac Isaacs , Justice from 1906 and Chief Justice from 1930–1931
As the first High Court, the court under Chief Justice Sir Samuel
Griffith had to establish its position as a new court of appeal for
the whole of
The court was keen to establish its position at the top of the
Australian court hierarchy. In
Deakin v Webb (1904) Griffith
Supreme Court of Victoria for following a Privy Council
decision about the
Constitution of Canada
Australian constitutional law
Together the two doctrines helped smooth the transition to a federal system of government and "by preserving a balance between the constituent elements of the Australian federation, probably conformed to community sentiment, which at that stage was by no means adjusted to the exercise of central power." The court had a generally conservative view of the Constitution, taking narrow interpretations of section 116 (which guarantees religious freedom) and section 117 (which prevents discrimination on the basis of someone's state of origin), interpretations that were to last well into the 1980s.
Two of the original judges of the Court, Griffith and Sir Edmund Barton, were frequently consulted by governors-general, including on the exercise of the reserve powers . This practice of consultation has continued from time to time since.
KNOX, ISAACS AND GAVAN DUFFY COURTS
Adrian Knox became Chief Justice on 18 October 1919 and less than
three months later, foundation Justice Sir
Knox was knighted in 1921, the only Chief Justice to be knighted during his term. Some of the Knox court's early work related to the aftermath of World War I. In Roche v Kronheimer (1921), the Court upheld federal legislation which allowed for the making of regulations to implement Australia's obligations under the Treaty of Versailles . The majority decided the case on the defence power , but Higgins decided it on the external affairs power , the first case to decide that the external affairs power could be used to implement an international treaty in Australia.
Sir Isaac Isaacs was Chief Justice for only forty-two weeks, before leaving the court to be appointed Governor-General of Australia . Isaacs was ill for much of his term as Chief Justice and few significant cases were decided under his formal leadership; rather, his best years were under Knox, where he was the most senior Justice and led the court in many decisions.
Frank Gavan Duffy was Chief Justice for four years beginning in
1931, although he was already 78 when appointed to the position and
did not exert much influence, given that (excluding single-Justice
cases) he participated in only 40 per cent of cases in that time, and
regularly gave short judgments or joint judgments with other Justices.
In the context of the
During this time, the court did decide several important cases, including Attorney-General (New South Wales) v Trethowan (1932), which considered Premier of New South Wales Jack Lang 's attempt to abolish the New South Wales Legislative Council , and the First State Garnishee case (1932), which upheld federal legislation compelling the Lang government to repay its loans. Much of the court's other work related to legislation passed in response to the Depression.
John Latham , before his appointment to the court, as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs in the Lyons government.
The court under Chief Justice Sir John Latham , who came to the office in 1935, was punctuated by World War II. Although it dealt with cases in other areas, its most important and lasting work related to wartime legislation, and the transition back to peace following the war.
The court upheld much legislation under the defence power , interpreting it broadly wherever there was a connection to defence purposes, in cases such as Andrews v Howell (1941) and de Mestre v Chisholm (1944). In general, the Curtin Labor government was rarely successfully challenged, the court recognising the necessity that the defence power permit the federal government to govern strongly. The court also allowed the federal government to institute a national income tax scheme in the First Uniform Tax case (1942), and upheld legislation allowing the proclamation of the pacifist Jehovah\'s Witnesses religion as a subversive organisation, in the Jehovah\'s Witnesses case (1943).
The court reined in the wide scope of the defence power after the
war, allowing for a transitional period. It struck down several key
planks of the Chifley Labor government's reconstruction program,
notably an attempt to nationalise the banks in the Bank
Nationalisation case (1948), and an attempt to establish a
comprehensive medical benefits scheme in the First Pharmaceutical
Benefits case (1945). However the court also famously struck down
Menzies Liberal government legislation banning the Communist Party of
Apart from the wartime cases, the Latham court also developed the criminal defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact, for example in Proudman v Dayman (1941). It also paved the way for the development of the external affairs power by upholding the implementation of an air navigation treaty in R v Burgess; Ex parte Henry (1936).
The bench in 1952, shortly before Chief Justice Latham's
retirement. Back, left to right, Fullagar , Webb , Williams & Kitto .
Front, left to right, Dixon , Latham the First (1975) and Second
(1977) Territory Senators cases, which concerned whether legislation
allowing for the mainland territories to be represented in the
Parliament of Australia
The Barwick court decided several infamous cases on tax avoidance and tax evasion , almost always deciding against the taxation office. Led by Barwick himself in most judgments, the court distinguished between avoidance (legitimately minimising one's tax obligations) and evasion (illegally evading obligations). The decisions effectively nullified the anti-avoidance legislation and led to the proliferation of avoidance schemes in the 1970s, a result which drew much criticism upon the court.
Sir Harry Gibbs was appointed as Chief Justice in 1981. Under his leadership, the court moved away from the legalism and conservative traditions which had characterised the Dixon and Barwick courts.
The Gibbs court made several important decisions in Australian constitutional law . It allowed the Federal Parliament to make very wide use of the external affairs power, by holding that this power could be used to implement treaties into domestic law with very few justiciable limits. In Koowarta v Bjelke-Petersen (1982) four judges to three upheld the validity of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 , although no single view had majority support. However, in the Tasmanian Dams case (1983), a majority of the court upheld federal environmental legislation under the power.
The court also adopted a more expansive interpretation of the corporations power. In the Actors Equity case (1982), the court upheld regulations which, although they did not directly regulate corporations, indirectly protected corporations. In the Tasmanian Dams case, the court indicated that it would interpret the power to uphold legislation regulating the non-trading activities of corporations, although it did not decide the case on that basis. The external affairs power and the corporations power have both been increasingly relied on by the federal government to extend its authority in recent years.
In administrative law , the court expanded on the doctrines of natural justice and procedural fairness in Kioa v West (1985). Although Gibbs himself dissented on those points, he did decide that executive decision makers were obliged to take humanitarian principles into consideration. Outside of specific areas of law, the court was also involved in several cases of public significance, including the Chamberlain case (1984), concerning Lindy Chamberlain , and A v Hayden (1984), concerning the botched ASIS exercise at the Sheraton Hotel in Melbourne.
Sir Anthony Mason became Chief Justice in 1987. The Mason court was very stable, with only one change in the bench in its eight years, the appointment of Michael McHugh after Sir Ronald Wilson 's retirement. The court under Mason was widely regarded as the most liberal bench in the court's history.
The Mason court made many important decisions in all areas of Australian law. One of its first major cases was Cole v Whitfield (1988), concerning the troublesome Section 92 , which had been interpreted inconsistently and confusingly since the beginning of the court. For the first time, the court referred to historical materials such as the debates of the Constitutional Conventions to ascertain the purpose of the section, and the unanimous decision indicated "a willingness to overturn established doctrines and precedents perceived to be no longer working", a trend which typified the Mason court.
The most popularly significant case decided by the Mason court was the Mabo case (1992), in which the court found that the common law was capable of recognising native title . The decision was one of the High Court's most controversial of all time and represented the tendency of the Mason court to receive "high praise and stringent criticism in equal measure." Other controversial cases included the War Crimes Act case (1991), regarding the validity of the War Crimes Act 1945; Dietrich v The Queen (1992), in which the court found that a lack of legal representation in a serious criminal case can result in an unfair trial; Sykes v Cleary (1992), regarding the disputed election of Phil Cleary ; and Teoh\'s case (1995), in which the court held that ratification of a treaty by the executive could create a legitimate expectation that members of the executive would act in accordance with that treaty.
The court developed the concept of implied human rights in the Constitution in cases such as Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd v Commonwealth (1992), Nationwide News v Wills (1992) and Theophanous v Herald and Weekly Times (1994), in which the court recognised an implied freedom of political communication arising from the nature of the Constitution in laying out a system of representative government .
In other areas of law, the court developed doctrines of equity in relation to commercial law and contract law , in cases such as Waltons Stores v Maher (1988) and Trident General Insurance v McNiece (1988), and made significant developments in tort law , in cases such as Rogers v Whitaker (1992) and Burnie Port Authority v General Jones (1994).
High Court as seen over Lake Burley Griffin and the terrestrial globe
Sir Gerald Brennan succeeded Mason in 1995. In contrast to the previous court, the Brennan court had many changes in its membership despite being only three years long. The court decided many significant cases.
In Ha v New South Wales (1997) the court invalidated a New South Wales tobacco licensing scheme, reining in the licensing scheme exception to the prohibition states levying excise duties, contained in section 90 of the Australian Constitution . While it did not overturn previous cases in which schemes had been upheld, it did emphasise that the states could not stray too far from the constitutional framework.
The Brennan court made a number of significant decisions in relation
to the judiciary of
The court decided several cases relating to the implied freedom of political communication developed by the Mason court, notably Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1997) and Levy v Victoria (1997). It also decided several native title cases, including the controversial Wik case (1996).
Murray Gleeson was appointed Chief Justice in 1998. The court under Gleeson's leadership was generally regarded as more conservative than under Mason or Brennan, favouring legalism in the tradition of the Dixon and Barwick courts. In the Cross-vesting case (1999), the court struck down legislation vesting certain areas of federal jurisdiction in the Supreme Courts of the states. In Al-Kateb v Godwin (2004) a majority of the court applied a narrow interpretation of the Migration Act 1958 , finding that it permitted executively -imposed indefinite detention of stateless persons . However, the court did not entirely shy away from principle and public policy in its decisions.
In Egan v Willis (1998), the court supported the New South Wales Legislative Council's ability to suspend the Treasurer when he failed to produce documents before the Council, emphasising the purpose of the ability in facilitating responsible government . In Sue v Hill (1999), the court recognised Australia's emergence as a sovereign independent nation, finding that the United Kingdom was a "foreign power".
The Gleeson court decided a number of important native title cases,
including Yanner v Eaton (1999), Western
Perhaps the Gleeson court's most significant case was among its later ones. In the WorkChoices case (2006), the court finally explicitly accepted a wide reading of the corporations power, after years of gradual expansion following the Concrete Pipes case (1971).
Robert French was appointed Chief Justice in September 2008. The first decision handed down by the French Court was Lujans v Yarrabee Coal Company Pty Ltd (2008), a case dealing with a motor vehicle accident. One of the most notable judgments handed down by the French Court was Pape v Commissioner of Taxation (2009), a constitutional law case concerning the existence of the Commonwealth's so-called "appropriation power" and the scope of its executive and taxation powers.
COMPOSITION OF THE COURT
Main article: List of Justices of the High Court of Australia
Appointments are officially made by the Governor-General in Council .
In practice, appointees are nominated by the Prime Minister , on
advice from the Cabinet, particularly from the Attorney-General of
Australia. For example, four Justices were appointed while Andrew
Fisher was Prime Minister, but it was largely on Attorney-General
Billy Hughes ' authority that the candidates were chosen. Since 1979,
the Attorney-General has been required to consult with the
Attorneys-General of the states and territories of
There are no qualifications for Justices in the Constitution (other
than that they must be under the compulsory retirement age of 70 ).
The High Court of
The appointment process stands in stark contrast with the highly public selection and confirmation process for justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. While there are people who are critical of the secrecy of the process and who advocate a more public method for appointments, there are relatively few who dispute the quality of appointees. Three Chief Justices (Sir Adrian Knox, Sir John Latham and Sir Garfield Barwick) had previously been conservative politicians prior to their appointment. However, there is frequent criticism of Barwick's intervention in the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis , when he gave advice to Governor-General Sir John Kerr . On the other side of politics, Labor politicians Dr H. V. Evatt QC, Sir Edward McTiernan and Lionel Murphy QC were also appointed to the High Court; Murphy, Attorney-General in the Whitlam government, was criticised by the conservative side at the time of his appointment but after a decade in office had risen, on occasion, to the heights of Acting Chief Justice. His reputation was gravely damaged in 1985 after illegal police phone-tapping led to charges that he had attempted to pervert the course of justice. He was eventually acquitted of all charges.
v · t · e
NAME STATE DATE APPOINTED MANDATORY RETIREMENT Appointing Governor-General Nominating Prime Minister PREVIOUS JUDICIAL POSTING(S) EDUCATION
Susan Kiefel AC
(Chief Justice) Queensland
000000002017-01-30-000030 January 2017
(as Chief Justice)
000000002007-09-04-00004 September 2007
(as Justice) 000000002024-01-17-000017 January 2024
Virginia Bell AC
New South Wales
000000002009-02-03-00003 February 2009
000000002021-03-07-00007 March 2021
Bryce, Dame QuentinDame
Kevin Rudd (Labor)
Supreme Court of
New South Wales
New South Wales
000000002012-10-09-00009 October 2012
000000002028-07-05-00005 July 2028
Bryce, Dame QuentinDame
Julia Gillard (Labor)
Solicitor-General of Australia
Australian National University
Patrick Keane AC
000000002013-03-01-00001 March 2013
000000002022-10-26-000026 October 2022
Bryce, Dame QuentinDame
Julia Gillard (Labor)
Supreme Court of
000000002015-02-03-00003 February 2015
000000002020-12-02-00002 December 2020
Cosgrove, Sir PeterSir
Gordon, MichelleMichelle Gordon
000000002015-06-09-00009 June 2015
000000002034-11-19-000019 November 2034
Cosgrove, Sir PeterSir
000000002017-01-30-000030 January 2017
000000002044-01-09-00009 January 2044
Cosgrove, Sir PeterSir
The first bench of the High Court: Barton, Griffith and O'Connor seated, with court officials in the background. Photo taken at the first sitting of the court on 6 October 1903.
The first three justices of the High Court were Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, Justice Sir Edmund Barton, and Justice Richard Edward O'Connor. There were a number of possible candidates for the first bench of the High Court. In addition to the eventual appointees, names which had been mentioned in the press included two future Justices of the court, Henry Higgins and Isaac Isaacs , along with Andrew Inglis Clark , Sir John Downer , Sir Josiah Symon and George Wise . (Crucially, all of the above had previously served as politicians, with only Griffith and Inglis Clark possessing both political and judicial experience.) Barton and O'Connor were both members of the federal parliament and both from the government benches; indeed Barton was Prime Minister . Each of the eventual appointees had participated in the drafting of the Constitution and had intimate knowledge of it. All three were described as conservative and their jurisprudence was very much influenced by English law, and in relation to the Constitution, by United States law.
EXPANSION OF COMPOSITION
In 1906, at the request of the Justices, two more seats were added to
the bench, with Isaacs and Higgins the appointees. After O'Connor's
death in 1912, an amendment to the
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN COMPOSITION
Current Justices Susan Kiefel , Virginia Bell and Michelle Gordon are the third, fourth and fifth women to sit on the bench, after Justices Mary Gaudron and Susan Crennan . There are three women sitting concurrently on the bench, alongside four men. In 2017, Justice Kiefel became the first woman to be appointed Chief Justice.
More than half of the Justices, twenty-six, have been residents of
New South Wales
Michael Kirby was the first openly gay justice in the history of the Court; his replacement, Virginia Bell, is the first lesbian, who has been an active campaigner for gay and lesbian rights and was one of the participants in the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 1978.
Almost every single judge on the High Court has taken silk as a Queen\'s Counsel (QC) , King\'s Counsel (KC) or Senior Counsel (SC) before appointment. The exceptions are: Justice Sir Hayden Starke (although he refused to take silk), Justices Sir Edward McTiernan , Sir William Webb, Sir Cyril Walsh , Michael Kirby and Robert French .
From the retirement of
Ian Callinan in 2007 until the appointment of
Stephen Gageler in 2012, every justice of the High Court had prior
judicial experience (serving on state supreme courts or the Federal
The Chief Justice and each of the Justices engage associates to assist them in the exercise of their judicial functions. At present, all members of the High Court engage two associates for one-year terms. In addition, the Chief Justice is assisted by an employee of the library as a legal research officer. The role of the associate is broadly equivalent to that of a law clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States . Depending on the judge, an associate's responsibilities will typically include legal research, assistance in preparation for oral arguments, tipping in court during oral argument, editing judgments and assisting with extrajudicial functions, such as the speechwriting. Associates generally will have graduated with first class honours, at or near the top of their class, from a leading law school. Associates will typically also have research experience (and often experience working for a law firm or university or another court). Accordingly, competition for associate positions is very high with hundreds of applications being received annually. It is not uncommon for associates to have won Rhodes Scholarships or Fulbright Scholarships .
High Court building, view from the lake
In the 1950s, Prime Minister
In March 1968, the government announced that the court would move to Canberra. :ch 4 In 1972 an international competition was held attracting 158 entries. In 1973 the firm of Edwards Madigan Torzillo Briggs was declared the winner of the two-stage competition. Architect Chris Kringas was the Principal Designer and Director in charge working with Feiko Bouman. In March 1975, only one month before construction began, Kringas died aged 38. Following his death, Feiko Bouman, Hans Marelli and Colin Madigan supervised the construction of the design. The constructed building is relevantly identical to the 1973 competition design. Entry hall
Construction began in April 1975 on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin,
Parliamentary Triangle . The site is just to the east of the
axis running between Capital Hill and the
Australian War Memorial
The High Court and the National Gallery Precinct were added to the Australian National Heritage List in November 2007.
The High Court makes itself generally available to the public through
its own website. All of its judgments, as well as transcripts of its
hearings since 2009 and other materials, are made available, free of
charge, through the
Australasian Legal Information Institute . Since
October 2013, audio-visual recordings of full-court hearings held in
* ^ "Courts".
Australian Bureau of Statistics
* Burnside, Sarah (2011). "Australian Judicial Biography: Past,
Present and Future". Australian Journal of Politics and History. 57
(2): 221. ISSN 0004-9522 . doi :10.1111/j.1467-8497.2011.01593.x .
* Fricke, Graham (1986). Judges of the High Court. Hawthorn,
Victoria: Hutchinson of Australia. ISBN 978-0-09-157150-4 .
* Carter, David J, James Brown and Adel Rahmani (2016) "Reading the
High Court at a Distance: Topic Modelling the Legal Subject Matter and
Judicial Activity of the High Court of Australia, 1903-2015"
New South Wales