First Nations trailblazers in the judiciary
Magistrate Taylor joins trailblazers Justice Lincoln Crowley, a Warramunga man, and Justice Michael Lundberg, descendent of the Yamatji people, the first and second First Nations men to serve on the bench of a superior court in Australia. Justices Crowley and Lundberg were appointed to the Supreme Courts of Queensland and Western Australia, in June 2022, and November 2022 respectively.
These historic appointments add to a growing cohort of former and current First Nations judicial officers who have served or are currently serving on the federal, district and local courts. They bring a wealth of legal expertise from agencies such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, State and Commonwealth Offices of Public Prosecutions, state Crown Solicitors Offices, the Legal Aid Commission, in addition to pro bono work and private practice at the bar and commercial law firms.
First nations appointments to the Magistrate/Local Courts:
In February this year, Lana Chester and Natalie Brown joined the Magistrates Court of South Australia, becoming the only First Nations people to have been appointed to South Australia’s judiciary since its inception. The Northern Territory also gained its first Indigenous Local Court Judge, Judge David Woodroffe, descendent of the Mudburra and Jingili people, appointed in 2023 after acting in the role since July 2022.
They join the trailblazing First Nations appointments in Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales:
- Rose Falla, a Wotjobaluk, Wemba Wemba and Mutti Mutti woman, appointed as a Magistrates’ Court of Victoria in 2013.
- Gavin Maclean and Andrew Matthews appointed to the Magistrates Court of Western Australia in August 2020.
- Dr Sue Gordon AM – Yamatji woman, appointed as a Magistrate, who served on the Children’s Court of Western Australia from 1988.
- Pat O’Shane AM, a proud Kuku Yalanji woman from Mossman, Qld, Magistrate appointed in NSW, who served from 1986 until 2013.
First Nations appointments to Federal and District Courts
There have been a number of other appointments of First Nations judges to make history in the Federal and District Courts.
- Judge David Maclean, who has kinship links in the Pilbara region, appointed to the Western Australia District Court in January 2020, having previously been appointed as a Magistrate in the state in 2018.
- Judge Nathan Jarro, who identifies as Ghangalu on his father’s side and Bidjara on his mother’s side, appointed to the Queensland District Court on 26 March 2018.
New South Wales
- Judge Robert Bellear who became Australia’s first Indigenous Judge upon appointment to the New South Wales District Court in 1996.
- Judge Matthew Myers AM, appointed to a federal court, upon his appointment to former Federal Magistrates Court in January 2012, now the Federal Circuit and Family Court.
In celebrating these appointments, it is acknowledged that there may be other former or current judicial officers whose identity as First Nations Australians has not been made public or is otherwise unknown. Statistics on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status of Federal judges have not been officially collected, although the current government has accepted in principle the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Recommendation to do so.