Susan Crennan

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Susan Crennan

Justice of the High Court of Australia
In office
1 November 2005 – 2 February 2015
Nominated byJohn Howard
Appointed byMichael Jeffery
Preceded byMichael McHugh
Succeeded byGeoffrey Nettle
Personal details
Susan Maree Walsh

(1945-07-01) 1 July 1945 (age 73)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Spouse(s)Michael Crennan
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
Sydney Law School

Susan Maree Crennan AC QC (née Walsh; born 1 July 1945), is a former Justice of the High Court of Australia, the highest court in the Australian court hierarchy.

Early life and education[edit]

Crennan was born in Melbourne,[1] one of six children born to John Maurice Walsh and Marie Therese (née Henley), Catholics of Irish descent. She attended Our Lady of Mercy College, Heidelberg and the University of Melbourne, where she received a Bachelor of Arts. She later received a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Sydney. Crennan also completed a Postgraduate Diploma (History) at the University of Melbourne on the constitutional history of the state of Victoria.[2]


Crennan was a teacher of English literature and was employed by various patent attorneys in New South Wales and Victoria between 1967–1978. She was admitted as a barrister in New South Wales in 1979 and Victoria in 1980. She was made Queen's Counsel in Victoria in 1989 and in New South Wales in 1990. From 1992–1997, Crennan served as a commissioner of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (now the Australian Human Rights Commission), the peak human rights body in Australia.

In 1993, Crennan was the first woman to be appointed chair of the Victorian Bar Council, and the following year the first female president of the Australian Bar Association. Between 2003–2005, she was a member of the Council of the University of Melbourne.

Crennan was appointed to the Federal Court in 2003 and took her seat on the bench on 3 February 2004. In September 2005 it was announced that she would succeed Justice Michael McHugh in the High Court. Attorney-General of Australia Philip Ruddock, on announcing Crennan's appointment, said that Crennan "demonstrated, through the quality of her jurisprudence and her leadership, that she has the confidence of the legal profession and the broader Australian community".[3]

She was sworn into the High Court by Chief Justice Murray Gleeson on 8 November 2005.[4] The appointment made her the second female Justice to sit on the bench of the High Court of Australia, the first being Justice Mary Gaudron.[citation needed]


After earlier plans to retire on her 70th birthday, in November 2014 it was announced that she would retire on 3 February 2015, five months before her 70th birthday.

This was explained as being in order that her retirement would not coincide with the retirement of Justice Kenneth Hayne, also planned for around that time. That would have left the court with only five justices for a period, making it difficult to consider constitutional cases.[5]

Her final cases included consideration of the legality of the detention of 157 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers at sea in July 2014,[5] under Operation Sovereign Borders.

She was replaced by Victorian Court of Appeal judge Geoffrey Nettle.[6]


In January 2008 Crennan was awarded the highest Australian civilian honour, Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), for outstanding service to the law and the judiciary, particularly through leadership and mentoring roles with legal and professional associations, as a contributor to reform, and to the community.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Susan Crennan and her husband, Michael Crennan QC, a barrister, have three children.[8]


  1. ^ "Themis, issue 7" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-04-20.
  2. ^ Susan Maree Crennan AC – High Court of Australia
  3. ^ Shaw, Meaghan (20 September 2005). "Second woman appointed to High Court". The Age. Australia. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  4. ^ "Crennan sworn in as High Court judge". The Age. Australia. AAP. 8 November 2005. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  5. ^ a b High Court Justice Susan Crennan to retire, paving way for first Abbott Government appointment, Elizabeth Byrne, ABC News Online, 25 November 2014.
  6. ^ Attorney-General's announcement Archived 6 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine; retrieved 4 December 2014.
  7. ^ "CRENNAN, Susan Maree: Companion of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 26 January 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  8. ^ Pelly, Michael (21 September 2005). "Ex-teacher, legal dynamo and, oh yes, a woman: welcome to the High Court". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media.