THE HONOURABLE JUSTICE MICHAEL KIRBY AC CMG
JUSTICE OF THE HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA
Justice Kirby was born in Sydney and educated in public schools, including Fort Street Boys' High School. He holds the degrees BA LLM BEc from Sydney University. The degree of LLM was conferred on him with First Class Honours.
Justice Kirby practised as a solicitor and then as a barrister before his appointment in December 1974 as a Deputy President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. He is the youngest man appointed to federal judicial office in Australia. He held that position to 1983 and for the period 1975-1983, he also served as the inaugural chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission. In 1983 he took up appointment as a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia. He relinquished that post in 1984 on his appointment as President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal, a position he held until 1996. In August 1995 he was concurrently appointed to the post of President of the Court of Appeal of Solomon Islands. He resigned these positions when he was appointed in February 1996 as one of the seven Justices of the High Court of Australia, Australia's federal Supreme Court, a position he still holds.
Justice Kirby has had a long connection with Universities. At Sydney University, he was elected President of the Students' Representative Council (1962-1963) and President of the Sydney University Union (1965). He served as Fellow of the Senate of Sydney University and as Deputy Chancellor of the University of Newcastle in the 1960s and 1980s. In 1984 he was elected as Chancellor of Macquarie University in Sydney. He held that position until 1993.
Whilst serving in the Australian Law Reform Commission, Justice Kirby was appointed to a number of national bodies. Thus, in the 1970s and 1980s he served on the Administrative Review Council of Australia, on the Australian Council of Multicultural Affairs and on the Executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
It was after 1978 that Justice Kirby commenced involvement in a large number of international activities. Thus he chaired two Expert Groups of the OECD, respectively on privacy (1978-80) and data security (1991-92). He has taken an active part in UNESCO, both in its General Conference and in specialised advisory bodies. Between 1995-2005 he served on the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO and in 2004-5 he chaired the drafting group that prepared the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, which was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 2005. Between 1995-2005 he served on the Ethics Committee of the Human Genome Organisation, London, monitoring the largest cooperative scientific project in history.
Justice Kirby also served as a member of the Inaugural Global Commission on AIDS of the World Health Organisation in 1988-92. In 2002 he chaired an Expert Group convened by UNAIDS and the High Commissioner for Human Rights on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights. In 2001-2 he was chairperson of the UNAIDS Expert Panel on HIV Testing of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. Since 2004 he has been a member of the UNAIDS Global Reference Panel on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights.
In addition to these international activities, Justice Kirby was a long-time member of the Executive Committee of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), rising to be Chairman of that body and later President of the ICJ (1995-98). He was appointed by the International Labour Organisation as a member of the Commission on Freedom of Association and took part in an ILO Mission to South Africa in 1992-3, examining that country's labour laws. Between 1993 and 1996, he served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Human Rights in Cambodia. In 1994 he served as Independent Chairman of the Constitutional Conference of Malawi and returned there in 1997 for a constitutional symposium.
In addition to these activities, Justice Kirby has served in numerous educational institutions. These have included the International Advisory Group on Advocacy Training of the Inns of Court School of Law in London; the Board of Governors of the Kinsey Institute within Indiana University in the United States; and the Advisory Board of the International Human Rights Institute of DePaul University in Chicago. Currently he is rapporteur of the International Group on Judicial Integrity which prepared international guidelines on judicial integrity endorsed in 2006 by ECOSOC and now under the aegis of UNODC, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Justice Kirby has received a number of honours. These include appointment as a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) (1983) and as a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) (1991). He has received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Newcastle (NSW), the University of Ulster and James Cook University; the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Macquarie University, the University of Sydney, the National Law School University of India, Buckingham University and the Australian National University. He was also awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of the University by the University of South Australia.
In 1991 Justice Kirby was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal. In 1997 The Bulletin magazine included him amongst Australia's "Ten Most Creative Minds". In 1998 he was named Laureate of the UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education. In 2005 the Sydney Morning Herald named him as one of Australia's "Top Ten Public Intellectuals". In 2006, The Bulletin named him as "one of the hundred most influential Australians ever". He has been elected as an Honorary Member of the American Law Institute (2000) and as a Honorary Bencher of the Inner Temple in London (2006). He was awarded the Prix Yves Pélicier of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health (2003); and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Australian Law Awards (2005). Famously, his recreation is work.