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    Attorney-General's comments at the swearing in of Chief Justice Catherine Holmes
    Friday, September 11, 2015
    Check Against Delivery

    Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for Training and Skills
    The Honourable Yvette D'Ath

    Friday, September 11, 2015

    Attorney-General's comments at the swearing in of Chief Justice Catherine Holmes

    Check Against Delivery

    May it please the court.

    It gives me great pleasure to welcome and congratulate on behalf of the Queensland Government - Queensland’s 19th Chief Justice the Honourable Catherine Holmes on your appointment.

    May I firstly convey the apologies of the Premier. As your Honour remarked in your Statement earlier in the week – Queensland is a big State. The Premier has duties in Cairns today but has asked to pass on her sincere best wishes and warm congratulations to you on your appointment.

    Your Honour brings to the role great intelligence, utmost integrity and a broad and deep experience in the law.

    It is important and I believe enlightening on this occasion to reflect on the paths, both personal and professional, which you have followed.

    The youngest of six children, your Honour went to Darra Catholic School and completed your Junior Certificate at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Corinda.

    You completed your Senior Certificate at the then newly opened Oxley State High School.

    Your Honour holds a Master of Laws, as well as Bachelor’s degrees in Arts and Law, from the University of Queensland, a Bachelor of Economics from the Australian National University, and a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice from what was then known as the Queensland Institute of Technology.

    Alongside this very impressive academic background, your Honour enjoyed a diverse career as a research assistant in the Psychology Department at the University of Queensland followed by a stint as a clerk in the office of the Official Receiver in Bankruptcy within the Commonwealth Public Service.

    Upon being admitted as a Solicitor in 1982, your Honour secured a position in the prosecutions office of the Deputy Crown Solicitor before being admitted as a barrister in 1984.

    Your Honour was also a founding member of the Women’s Legal Service, which was set up in 1984 in order to respond to legal issues of concern to women in Queensland.

    You worked briefly as a Commonwealth crown prosecutor and commenced practise at the private bar from 1986. You started a family with your husband Arthur Preston, and have two daughters and a son. You maintained a busy practise and experienced first-hand the competing demands of parenting and work. These must have been very, very busy times indeed.

    Your Honour served as a part-time member of the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal from 1994 to 2000, as an acting judge of the District Court of Queensland in 1999 and deputy president of the Queensland Community Corrections Board in 1997.

    Your Honour took silk in 1999.

    Your Honour’s contribution to the State has included serving as counsel assisting the Forde Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Institutions and as the Commissioner for the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry.

    Appointed to the Supreme Court in 2000, your Honour undertook duties as the Criminal List judge and in the Mental Health Court.

    And, of course, your Honour was appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2006.

    Former Chief Justice and now His Excellency the Governor, Paul de Jersey said at your Honour’s swearing-in as a Judge of Appeal in 2006 that your Honour had served the Supreme Court with dedication and distinction, and exercised the important jurisdiction of the Mental Health Court with meticulous attention and dedication.

    Any judicial appointment is one to be taken seriously, but none more so than the highest judicial role in Queensland’s Courts system.

    I certainly have taken this responsibility seriously.

    In that regard, I was fortunate to have so many highly qualified, experienced, skilled judges to select from.

    So why Chief Justice Holmes?

    This is what I have come to know about Chief Justice Holmes.

    You are a humble person, someone that is reserved and considered in your approach to the law. You understand the importance of upholding the rule of law and expect the highest standards of professionalism from the court. You have a strong work ethic and an exceptional intellect. You have extensive experience in the law and a great capacity to work under pressure. Your Honour has an ability to maintain and command the respect of the profession, the judiciary and the broader community.

    Your honour is someone who has been a mentor to many young men and women coming up through the legal profession. A true inspiration to many.

    For all of these reasons I consider myself extremely fortunate in having the opportunity to appoint someone who has all of these traits to be the next Chief Justice of Queensland.

    Not only does the court commence a new chapter today but your Honour will make history as the first woman to be appointed as the Chief Justice of Queensland.

    In a way, it is poetic that 2015 marks the occasion of the first woman to be elevated to this high office. It marks a century since 1915 when the first Queensland woman, Agnes McWhinney, was admitted to practice as a solicitor.

    In commentary on you taking up this role, and in years to come, there will no doubt be some reflection on your place in history, as the first woman in Queensland to be appointed Chief Justice.

    And so there should be - to reflect your achievements and to properly mark your place in history.

    However, I hope one day soon, the appointment of women to high office, to senior positions in both the public and private sector, will be entirely un-newsworthy.

    Because as historical as this appointment is, in one way this appointment should be unremarkable. Why do I say this, because for all of the reasons that I have stated here today, before so many judicial officers and the broader legal profession, before your family and friends, this appointment is one that is deserving based on your character, intellect and skills, and not your gender.

    Your Honour’s appointment has been so warmly received by all because Your Honour’s appointment is so well deserved.

    Last month I had the honour of unveiling the official portrait of His Excellency, Governor de Jersey and took the opportunity to reflect on the formidable portrait collection within this building and the characters and experiences that the portraits represent.

    As I said on that occasion, I believe that the collection of historical figures also serves as a reminder that but a few of us have the great honour to serve in some of the legal profession’s highest offices and that - for a short period - we are merely custodians of this great institution.

    Your Honour, I believe that you will be a tremendous custodian of the office of Chief Justice.

    I again congratulate you and look forward to working with you and your learned colleagues to deliver what the people of Queensland expect of all of us – a legal system that is just, accessible, equitable and fair.

    May it please the court.