Australia appoints Susan Kiefel as first woman to lead highest court

Newly announced High Court Chief Justice of Australia Susan Kiefel is the first woman to be appointed to to lead the high court of Australia. She is scheduled to take office on Jan 30, 2017.
Newly announced High Court Chief Justice of Australia Susan Kiefel is the first woman to be appointed to to lead the high court of Australia. She is scheduled to take office on Jan 30, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

SYDNEY (Bloomberg) - Susan Kiefel, who left school at 15, has been appointed as the first woman to lead Australia's highest court.

Kiefel, 62, will replace the retiring Robert French in January to become the 13th Chief Justice of Australia's High Court, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Tuesday (Nov 29).

"Susan Kiefel's story is one that is an inspiration," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

"She has been one of Australia's outstanding judicial officers and her appointment crowns a great career."

Hailing from Queensland state, Kiefel worked as a legal secretary after leaving school while studying part-time to complete her high-school qualifications.

She studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1975. After gaining a Master of Laws degree from Cambridge University, she became a Queen's Counsel in 1987.

Kiefel served as a judge on the Supreme Court of Queensland from 1993 before joining the Federal Court.

She was appointed to the High Court, the nation's final court of appeal, in September 2007.

Filling the vacancy as one of seven High Court judges will be James Edelman, 42, who was appointed Professor of the Law of Obligations at the University of Oxford in 2008. He currently serves as a Federal Court judge.