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Australia Just Appointed The First Female Chief Justice Of The High Court

It only took 113 years...

29/11/2016 9:39 AM AEDT | Updated 29/11/2016 11:56 AM AEDT
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Fairfax Media
Susan Kiefel, at her swearing-in to the High Court in 2007

Susan Kiefel has been named the new Chief Justice of the High Court, the first woman in the 113-year history of the court to hold the position.

Kiefel, who has been a Justice on the court since 2007, was named to the top job in the nation's top court on Tuesday morning by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis. Kiefel is the senior judge of the court, behind current Chief Justice Robert French.

"Susan Kiefel's story is one that is an inspiration," Turnbull said, calling her "one of Australia's most outstanding judicial officers".

Turnbull detailed how she had left school at 15, working as a legal secretary then studying law part-time before being admitted to the bar in 1975. She studied a Master of Law at Cambridge, and was the first woman in Queensland to become a QC. Her resume includes time as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia and the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island, and in 2011 she was named a Companion of the Order of Australia.

Kiefel, 62, soon released a statement on her appointment, saying it was a "privilege" to be named Chief Justice.

There have been 12 chief justices of the High Court since 1903 -- 12 men. Robert French, Chief Justice since 2008, announced earlier this year that he would retire by the beginning of 2017, paving the way for Kiefel to ascend to the position.

Law Council of Australia President, Stuart Clark, praised Kiefel's promotion.

"Prior to her appointment, Justice Kiefel was already a trailblazer for women in the legal profession," he said in a statement.

"Justice Kiefel's talent and commitment to her profession has taken her to Australia's highest judicial office. Justice Kiefel's success should serve as an inspiration to all young people considering a career in law."

With Kiefel ascending to the Chief Justice role, that left her former role vacant. Brandis and Turnbull also promoted James Edelman, a justice on the Federal Court, to the High Court.

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