Three new coroners to bring decades of legal expertise to Brisbane and Cairns

Published Friday, 08 December, 2023 at 09:17 AM

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
The Honourable Yvette D'Ath

  • Three new coroners have been appointed to Brisbane and Cairns.
  • The appointments include two new coroner positions, and a third temporary position being made permanent, funded in the 2023-24 State Budget.
  • The new coroners will commence their roles on 11 December 2023.


Three new coroners have been appointed – two in Brisbane and one in Cairns – helping respond to a significant increase in workload in the jurisdiction over the past decade.

The new Coroners, Melinda Zerner, Ainslie Kirkegaard and Stephanie Williams all have long and distinguished legal careers and will be sworn in on 11th of December 2023.

These new positions will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Coroners Court of Queensland.

Melinda Zerner is an experienced barrister, advocate and dispute resolution expert who holds tertiary qualifications in law, nursing, and education.

Her areas of interest and legal expertise extend to mediations, coronial inquests, personal injuries, in particular medical negligence, and commissions of inquiry.

She has previously appeared in the Court of Appeal, Supreme, District and Magistrates Courts, and as counsel on numerous coronial inquests. Ms Zerner has been appointed to Brisbane.

Ainslie Kirkegaard’s extensive experience includes service as an acting Magistrate performing the role of coroner for the past eight years and as Queensland’s inaugural Coronial Registrar since 2012. 

Ms Kirkegaard has more than 20 years’ experience in the legal sector having performed the role of Acting Coroner, Coronial Registrar and in-house Counsel Assisting since joining the Coroners Court of Queensland in 2008.

She also has extensive experience developing and implementing legislation across the health and justice portfolios in the Queensland Government. Ms Kirkegaard has been appointed to Brisbane.

Finally, Stephanie Williams is a barrister with extensive experience in criminal law, domestic violence and coronial jurisdictions in Queensland.

She is an experienced and highly skilled legal practitioner with more than 16 years of legal experience, and has acted as a counsel since October 2014. She also has extensive experience in remote and regional communities.

Ms Williams has been appointed to Cairns.

Quotes attributable to Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Yvette D’Ath:

“The creation of three new coroner positions will help reduce backlogs, improve timeliness, and provide better delivery of trauma-informed services.

“The coroners court is a key component of our justice system and each year they handle a growing number of complex and sensitive matters.

“In the past ten years, there has been a 27 per cent increase in workload, and there is a high degree of public interest in the investigations.

“These appointments will ensure the court functions more effectively in line with the growing demand, as Queenslanders expect.”