Susan Kiefel

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The Honourable Justice
Susan Kiefel
Justice of the High Court of Australia
Assumed office
4 September 2007
Nominated by John Howard
Appointed by Michael Jeffrey
Preceded by Ian Callinan
Personal details
Born (1954-01-17) 17 January 1954 (age 60)
Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Nationality Australian
Spouse(s) Dr Michael Albrecht
AC ribbon

Susan Mary Kiefel AC (born 17 January 1954) is a Justice of the High Court of Australia, the highest court in the Australian court hierarchy.

Early life and education[edit]

Kiefel was born at Cairns, Queensland in 1954.

She briefly attended Sandgate District State High School, dropping out at the age of 15 upon completing Year 10. In 1971, she completed secretarial training at Kangaroo Point Technical College on a scholarship. She worked as a secretary for a building society, an architect, and an exploration company before starting work as a receptionist at barristers Fitzgerald, Moynihan and Mack. During this time, she completed secondary school and began studying law.[1]

In 1973, Kiefel joined solicitors Cannan and Peterson (now Sly & Weigall Cannan & Peterson) as a legal clerk. Completing her education at night, she enrolled in the Barristers Admission Board course and passed her course with honours.[2] In 1984, while on sabbatical leave, 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. In 2008, she was elected to an Honorary Fellowship of Wolfson College, Cambridge.


Legal and judicial career[edit]

Kiefel was admitted to the bar in 1975. She became an honorary secretary of the Queensland Bar Association in 1978 and served on its committee in 1993. She was appointed as the first female Queens Counsel in Queensland in 1987 and was appointed to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 1989. In May 1993, Kiefel was appointed to the Supreme Court of Queensland.[3] The following year she was appointed by the Keating Government to the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island and was one of the first women to be appointed to the Federal Court of Australia on 17 October 1994, after Justice Deirdre O'Connor.[4]

In October 2001, Kiefel was appointed Deputy President of the Australian Federal Police Disciplinary Tribunal and became its President in April 2004. In 2003, Kiefel was appointed as a part-time commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission, and was re-appointed for a further three years in 2006.[2]

In August 2009, Justice Kiefel was granted an Honorary Doctorate from Griffith University. Justice Kiefel was chosen to recognise her distinguished contributions to the legal profession and for leading the way for women in the industry.[5] On 13 June 2011, she was named a Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to the law and to the judiciary, to law reform and to legal education in the areas of ethics, justice and governance.[6][7]

Appointment to the High Court[edit]

On 13 August 2007, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock announced Kiefel as the nominee to the High Court of Australia to replace the retiring High Court Justice Ian Callinan. Kiefel had previously been considered a favourite nominee to replace former High Court Justice Mary Gaudron when she retired in 2003,[8] and again in 2005 as replacement for Justice Michael McHugh.[9] Kiefel is the third female High Court Justice and the forty sixth overall. Her appointment alongside incumbent Justice Susan Crennan marked the first time two women sat concurrently on the High Court bench.[10] Justices Kiefel and Crennan have since been joined on the Bench of the High Court by another female judge, Justice Virginia Bell.

Kiefel's nomination was met with support from the Australian Bar Association amid criticism of the lack of consultation by the Australian government.[11] She was considered a conservative "black-letter" judge.[9]

Under the Australian Constitution, Kiefel must retire at the age of 70. Her appointment at such a relatively young age marks a generational change in the court as she is eligible to remain seated on the bench until 2024, outlasting all of the bench at the time of her appointment by nine years.[12][dead link]

Personal life[edit]

While at Wolfson College, Kiefel met her future husband, Michael Albrecht, a social anthropologist, when she became a member of the college rowing crew and Albrecht was her coach.[13]


  1. ^ Marriner, Cosima (18 August 2007). "Straight-shooter jumps the bar". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 August 2007. 
  2. ^ a b Pelly, Michael (14 August 2007). "Third time's a charm". The Australian. Retrieved 15 August 2007. 
  3. ^ "Biographies: Susan Kiefel". Women in the Law in Queensland. Supreme Court of Queensland. Archived from the original on 19 September 2006. Retrieved 13 August 2007. 
  4. ^ "List by appointment date of current judges". The Court. Federal Court of Australia. Retrieved 13 August 2007. 
  5. ^ Phipps, Julia (6 August 2009). "Justice Kiefel awarded honorary doctorate". Griffith News. Retrieved 9 August 2009. 
  6. ^ "Susan Kiefel AC". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australian. 13 June 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  7. ^ Leys, Nick (13 June 2011). "Justice Susan Kiefel awarded AC in Queen's Birthday Honours". Herald Sun. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  8. ^ Shaw, Meaghan (20 September 2005). "Second woman appointed to High Court". The Age (Australia). Retrieved 13 August 2007. 
  9. ^ a b Pelly, Michael (19 August 2007). "McHugh's angels: 10 women fit for High Court, says top judge". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 August 2007. 
  10. ^ Hudson, Phillip (13 August 2007). "Ruddock names new High Court judge". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 August 2007. 
  11. ^ Karvelas, Patricia (14 August 2007). "Kiefel will make High Court history". The Australian. Retrieved 15 August 2007. [dead link][dead link]
  12. ^ Waterford, Jack (15 August 2007). "A judge with time on her side". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 15 August 2007. [dead link]
  13. ^ "The Hon Justice Susan Kiefel appointed to Australian High Court". Wolfson College News. 15 August 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2007.