Mary Gaudron

Published 26th Feb 2018

Mary Gaudron made a huge breakthrough in February 1987 when she became the first woman appointed to the High Court of Australia.

Gaudron forced one immediate change: those before the court were instructed to change their method of addressing High

Court justices from “The Honourable Mr Justice X” to “The Honourable Justice X”.

By 1991, the proportion of women solicitors in NSW had grown to 23.5 per cent. More than half the graduates enrolling in the College of Law were women.

The number of women partners at law firms had grown to 7 per cent from 3.9 per cent in 1984. There were more in private practice at employee level (up 39.5 per cent), in government (up 39 per cent) and in corporate practice (up 31 per cent). Women studying law had grown from 30 per cent in the mid-1970s to 50 per cent in the mid-1980s and enrolments at some of the state’s law schools hit 65 per cent in 1991.

Extracted from Defending the Rights of All: A History of the Law Society of NSW by Michael Pelly and Caroline Pierce