Federal Court welcomes inaugural female chief justice

Debra Mortimer used to head the Victorian Bar's human rights committee

Federal Court welcomes inaugural female chief justice

The Federal Court has welcomed its first-ever female chief justice in Debra Mortimer.

Commonwealth Attorney General Mark Dreyfus MP confirmed that Mortimer will officially step into the role on Friday. She is only the fifth person to take the post since the court’s 1976 inception, succeeding retiring Chief Justice James Allsop AC.

Mortimer first joined the bench in 2013, and once served as a High Court justice. Previously, she served extensively with the Victorian Bar, including leading the organisation’s human rights committee.

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Her illustrious career has seen her adorned with many accolades, which includes receiving the Law Council of Australia’s President’s medal, the Law Institute of Victoria President’s Award, the Australian Human Rights Commission Law Award and the Tim McCoy Award for Community and Legal Work. The Victorian Bar named a pro bono award for outstanding achievement in pro bono advocacy in a tribunal or the Magistrates’ Court in honour of Mortimer.

Bar President Sam Hay KC praised the appointment, describing Mortimer as “an outstanding jurist who will make a substantial contribution to the Federal Court for many years to come”.

“The appointment of Justice Mortimer is especially significant as a model of inspiration for our female members. Her appointment as the first female chief justice of the Federal Court is a significant, deserving, and well-earned milestone”, Hay said.

Also involved in the decision were all state and territory attorneys-general, the heads of the Federal Courts and state and territory Supreme Courts, the Law Council of Australia, and the Australian Bar Association.

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