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Telling a History of Australian Women Judges Through Courts' Ceremonial Archives

Author(s): Heather Roberts

Swearing-in ceremonies are held to mark the investiture of a new judge on the bench. Transcribed and stored within courts’ public records, these proceedings form a rich ‘ceremonial archive’. This paper showcases the value of this archive for the (re)telling of Australian legal history and, particularly, a history of Australian women lawyers. Using a case study drawn from the swearing-in ceremonies of women judges of the High Court, Federal Court, and Family Courts of Australia between 1993 and 2013, the paper explores what this archive reveals about the Australian legal community’s attitudes towards women in the law. It argues that despite the regional and jurisdictional differences between these courts, recurring themes emerge. Notably, while feminising discourse dominates the earlier ceremonies, stories of the judges’ personal and judicial identity come to display a more overt feminist consciousness by the end of the Labor Governments in power in Australia between 2007 and 2013.

Read on SSRN

Centre: CIPL

Research theme: Constitutional Law and Theory, Law and Gender, Law, Governance and Development, Legal History and Ethnology, Private Law, The Legal Profession

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