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‘Swearing Mary’: The Significance of the Speeches Made at Mary Gaudron's Swearing-in as a Justice of the High Court of Australia

Author(s): Heather Roberts

During the High Court of Australia’s first century, Mary Gaudron served as the first and only female member of its bench. This paper commemorates the 25th anniversary of Gaudron’s appointment to the High Court by examining the speeches made at her swearing-in ceremony, in February 1987. Largely ignored by scholars, swearing-in ceremonies provide unique insights into the history of courts and the personality and philosophy of their judges. Through the prism of Gaudron’s swearing-in ceremony, this paper showcases the significance of these occasions as a commentary on the institutional and intellectual life of the Court. In particular, Gaudron’s swearing-in ceremony tells a fascinating story of institutional and gender politics in the High Court: the legal community’s varied response to the novelty of a woman High Court Justice; Gaudron’s intricate balancing between her distinctive vision of her obligations as a mentor to women lawyers and her role as ‘one of seven’ on a collegiate bench; and the perennial tension between innovation and tradition in legal method.

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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