Justice Michael Kirby poses with the team of UOW executives, including UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Patricia M Davidson

Justice Michael Kirby shares his wisdom with UOW law students

Justice Michael Kirby shares his wisdom with UOW law students

Legal giant discusses social justice and human rights with students and Ally Network

The Honourable Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG continued his work in nurturing the next generation of legal minds with a visit to the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) School of Law on Wednesday 2 August.

Justice Kirby, a giant of the Australian legal system and former justice of the High Court of Australia, spent the day at Wollongong Campus, speaking to students, greeting members of the UOW executive team, and meeting with the Ally Network.

Social justice and human rights were front of mind during Justice Kirby’s visit.

Joining Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Patricia M. Davidson for morning tea, Justice Kirby met with Acting Executive Dean of Business and Law Professor Stuart Kaye, Acting Dean of Law Dr Niamh Kinchin, Head of the Legal Intersections Research Centre Professor Nan Seuffert, incoming Dean of Law Dr Dillan Tampapallai and UOW Chief Integrity Officer Professor Trish Mundy.

Justice Kirby then delivered a special presentation to students in the School of Law, titled ‘Social Justice, Rights and the Importance of Judicial Dissent’. The students in the packed lecture theatre were enthralled as Justice Kirby shared his extensive knowledge and legal experience, with his passion for human rights for all.

Michael Kirby delivers a lecture to a theatre full of students. Photo: Mark Newsham

Justice Kirby also urged the students to emulate the feats of two of his past Associates when he sat on the High Court of Australia. Both have enjoyed highly successful careers: Associate Professor Elisa Arcioni, at Sydney Law School; and Professor James Goudkamp, who is Professor of the Law of Obligations at Oxford University and a UOW graduate.

Professor Kaye thanked Justice Kirby for taking the time to engage with the students.

“Justice Kirby has always been extraordinarily generous in sharing his wisdom and insights with our students. He is an inspiration for all of them,” he said.

For more than 50 years, Justice Kirby has become known for his advocacy for social justice causes and for the underdog, fighting to create a society that is equal, fair, and kind to all.

The barrister turned academic turned judge has used his privileged position at the heart of Australia’s legal system to agitate for change – for women, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, for the LGBTQIA+ community, and for refugees. 

During this visit to UOW, Justice Kirby met with the Ally Network, a visible network of empathetic people who are allies of gender, sex, and sexually diverse students and staff.

Justice Michael Kirby meets with members of UOWs Ally Network. They sit on red armchairs in a circle.

Josie Balsom, Chair of UOW’s Ally Network, said Justice Kirby took the time for a “lovely chat” with members.

“We discussed issues affecting gender, sex, and sexuality diverse staff and students, including system changes, bystander training, and the inaugural Trans & Friends Festival held last year,” they said.

“He reflected on the progress made in Australia and abroad on human rights, especially with regards to LGTBQIA+ people.”

Justice Kirby has a long relationship with UOW. He was a friend and colleague of the founding Dean of UOW’s School of Law Professor Jack Goldring and has visited regularly since the school’s formation in 1991 to deliver lectures and presentations to students. In 2018, Justice Kirby officially launched the School of Law at UOW’s Liverpool Campus.