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Kiefel CJ to retire early

Susan Kiefel AC, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, will be departing from the bench slightly earlier than the constitutionally mandated retirement age of 70.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 16 June 2023 The Bar
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As reported earlier today (Friday, 16 June) by ABC, Chief Justice Susan Kiefel — the first woman to hold the role — is set to retire from the nation’s highest court later this year.

Her Honour turns 70 early next year, however — at the end of a full bench yesterday (Thursday, 15 June) in the matter of Jones v The Commonwealth — Kiefel CJ informed the court she had just presided over her last hearing and that she would leave the court on 5 November.

HCA Justice Stephen Gageler paid tribute to the Chief Justice, telling the court that the "momentousness of the occasion is to be appreciated in the context of her Honour having served as Chief Justice for six years, as a member of this Court for 16 years, and as a member of the Australian judiciary for a total of 30 years".


"I am authorised by other members of the Court to say that we are honoured to share this occasion with her. We will miss her firm and gracious presence," His Honour said.

As per section 72 of the Australian Constitution, the “appointment of a justice of the High Court shall be for a term expiring upon his attaining the age of 70 years, and a person shall not be appointed as a justice of the High Court if he has attained that age”.

Kiefel CJ was announced as a High Court’s Chief Justice back in late 2016 by then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. At the time, Lawyers Weekly detailed her journey from legal secretary to Chief Justice.

The High Court’s bench has become, under Kiefel CJ’s watch, majority-female for the first time in its history. In September, Justice Jayne Jagot was appointed to the court, tipping the gender balance towards women.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said that the A-G has “commenced the consultation process to appoint a new Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia ahead of the retirement of the Honourable Susan Kiefel AC in November”.

“Justice Kiefel has provided 16 years of outstanding service to the Australian community as a justice of the High Court, including more than six years as the first woman to lead Australia’s highest court,” the spokesperson noted.

In mid-2022, Kiefel CJ spoke at the Australian Women Lawyers’ annual national conference and — in her keynote address — said that “much has been achieved towards equality”, but barriers remain for women in the legal profession.

Late last year, at the annual Hal Wootten Lecture, Her Honour reflected on “undoubtedly significant decisions” in the High Court’s history.

The High Court has been approached for comment.