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Justice Kirby: Keeping it real

Justice Kirby: Keeping it real

At the start of February, Justice Michael Kirby retired from the High Court, entering the history books as Australia's longest serving judge, and leaving an indelible mark on Australian society…

At the start of February, Justice Michael Kirby retired from the High Court, entering the history books as Australia's longest serving judge, and leaving an indelible mark on Australian society .

Kirby's 50-year career in the law, and particularly his years as part of the judiciary, certainly haven't passed unnoticed. Unlike other judges, Justice Kirby has not accepted that the judiciary should be allowed to stay stuck in a time warp, to remain an impenetrable fortress opening its drawbridge only to spill out inaccessible, punctuation-less judgments.

By opening up the lines of communication - speaking out on issues he believes in, however unpopular, and calling for change where he sees it is needed - he has helped bridge chasms that have long existed between judges and the younger generation, the media, and most importantly, the Australian people.

For one, Justice Kirby - a decade ago - was one of the first to speak out on the issue of depression, something which has only been more recently acknowledged by the profession at large. He says that he was derided at the time, but he's glad lawyers are finally "dusting it off and talking about it".

On the eve of his retirement, Justice Kirby spoke to Lawyers Weekly reporter Zoe Lyon about what he believes are the challenges facing the profession and the hurdles he's overcome.

Read the full story in this week's edition of Lawyers Weekly, available now.

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