Roma Mitchell

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Dame Roma Mitchell

Roma Mitchell 1965.jpg
Mitchell in 1965
31st Governor of South Australia
In office
6 February 1991 – 21 July 1996
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded bySir Donald Dunstan
Succeeded bySir Eric Neal
Judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia
In office
23 September 1965 – 1 October 1983
Personal details
Born(1913-10-02)2 October 1913
Adelaide, South Australia
Died5 March 2000(2000-03-05) (aged 86)
Adelaide, South Australia
EducationSt Aloysius College, Adelaide
Alma materUniversity of Adelaide

Dame Roma Flinders Mitchell AC, DBE, CVO, QC (2 October 1913 – 5 March 2000)[1] was an Australian lawyer, judge and state governor. Mitchell was the first woman judge in Australia, a Queen's Counsel, a chancellor of an Australian university and the Governor of an Australian state.

Dame Roma Mitchell was considered to be a pioneer of the Australian women's rights movement. Her grandfather, Samuel James Mitchell, was the first Chief Justice of the Northern Territory.

Early life and education[edit]

Roma Mitchell was born in Adelaide in 1913, the second daughter and youngest child of Harold and Maude Mitchell (née Wickham). She was an alumna of St Aloysius Convent College, Adelaide and the University of Adelaide.[2]


Mitchell was admitted as a barrister in 1935. In 1962 she was appointed a Queen's Counsel, the first Australian woman to be so.[3] As well as a practicing barrister, Mitchell was a lecturer in Family law at the University of Adelaide and Margaret Nyland was one of her students, with Mitchell becoming a mentor to Nyland.[4] Mitchell was made a Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia in 1965. She was still the only female judge in South Australia when she retired 18 years later in 1983 although Justices Elizabeth Evatt and Mary Gaudron had been appointed to federal courts by the Whitlam Government. It was not until 1993 that the second woman was appointed to the court, Mitchell's former student Margaret Nyland.[4]

She was Governor of South Australia from 1991 to 1996, the first female Governor in Australia. Mitchell also served as the first female Chancellor of the University of Adelaide (and first woman to be a chancellor of any Australian university) from 1983 to 1990 and was a member of the Council for the Order of Australia from 1981 to 1990.


Statue of Mitchell on North Terrace, Adelaide

Roma Mitchell was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) on 12 June 1971.[5] She was raised to Dame Commander (DBE) on 12 June 1982.[6]

On 26 January 1991, Dame Roma was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), Australia's highest civilian honour, for services to the law, to learning, and to the community.[7]

She was made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) on 1 January 2000.[8] Dame Roma received her honour directly from The Queen of Australia in a private investiture.

Roma Mitchell Secondary College in northern Adelaide was named for Dame Roma. One of the Bay class patrol boats operated by the Australian Customs is named ACV Dame Roma Mitchell.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Index Mf-Mn". Rulers. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  2. ^ Roe, Jill (Autumn 2008). "Review of Roma the First: A biography of Dame Roma Mitchell, by Susan Magarey and Kerrie Round" (PDF). Journal of Historical Biography. 4: 138–141.; M. Press, Some women in the Australian Church, Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society 30 (2009), 33-38.
  3. ^ "Dame Roma Mitchell". Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b "The Honourable Margaet Nyland AM". Australian Women Lawyers. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  5. ^ It's an Honour: CBE
  6. ^ It's an Honour: DBE
  7. ^ It's an Honour: AC
  8. ^ It's an Honour: CVO

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Lieutenant-General Sir Donald Dunstan
Governor of South Australia
Succeeded by
Sir Eric Neal