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Welcome Judge Damian Murphy

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Cite as: (2006) 80(12) LIJ, p. 32


Judge Damian Murphy was welcomed to the County Court of Victoria on 31 October. Among the speakers was Law Institute of Victoria Council vice-president Geoff Provis. An edited version of his prepared speech appears below.

I appear on behalf of Victoria’s solicitors to congratulate your Honour on your appointment as a judge of the County Court of Victoria.

As we have heard from previous speakers, your legal career spans almost 30 years and brings extensive experience, most recently in the fields of industrial, employment and administrative law, to the County Court.

Born and raised in the rich fertile farming country of Leongatha, known for some of the best dairy production in south-east Victoria, you have earned a reputation as a person strongly influenced by social justice issues, who has given a great deal back to the profession.

The country runs deep in your veins and I understand you have recently taken up a stretch of land adjoining your parents’ farm where you grew up and have spent a large part of your adult life.

Your father, who was awarded an OAM for his services to local history, has apparently passed on many skills to you, including how to milk by hand, a hidden talent you still harbour.

Despite the pull of the farm, your Honour has always given your time generously to share your keen interest and expertise in the law with others, and you have frequently made time available to address conferences on many issues.

You are also known as a devoted father, who likes to spend as much time as possible with your son and daughter, who are among the Murphy clan here today.

Your Honour graduated first in Economics at Monash University in the early 1970s before completing your law degree with honours at the University of Melbourne in 1977, taking out exhibitions in advanced constitutional law and taxation law.

While it is true, as my colleague from the Bar Council has pointed out, that few contemporaries have been prepared to reveal any stories about the more frivolous side of your nature, we have gained some insight into the strength of character to which so many people are drawn.

Throughout your career you have been renowned for your application to the hard issues. When you joined the Legal Aid Commission, for example, in the mid-1980s you did a great deal of work at both micro and macro level to ensure its future viability and strength. This valuable contribution did not go unnoticed by your peers at the time.

The quality most referred to is your sense of fairness – and the ability to give your best to the client.

You accepted briefs from both sides and won respect from employers and employees, sometimes from within the same family.

Fate has intervened on your behalf in some cases, I understand. Legend has it that you were in fact a trifle lost and looking for another meeting when you stumbled across a meeting of the Collingwood Legal Service at the Collingwood Town Hall one evening in the mid 1970s, while still a student at Monash University.

You went in and joined up, and went on to ensure that the people of Collingwood received the legal services they desperately needed at that time.

At times it wasn’t easy to even be heard at those meetings, due it seems to the din that frequently emanated from the other side of the walls – the Collingwood Police Station lock up.

After graduation you worked with many labour lawyers, including Bob Hawke, Barry Jones, Michael Duffy, John Cain, Jim Kennan and John Button.

We have heard that you were the first adviser to then Attorney-General Jim Kennan, from late 1983 to January 1986, where you provided high level policy advice, liaison and research.

You came to this role after some time as associate to Justice Michael Kirby as chair of the Australian Law Reform Commission, and are remembered for your enthusiasm, hard work and energy.

These are in fact the words most used to describe everything your Honour has taken on – “enthusiasm, hard work and energy”.

In every role, from milking cows on the farm at Leongatha to community legal service in Collingwood, to practice at the Victorian Bar, you have made a significant contribution and now bring these same qualities to this Court.

On behalf of Victoria’s solicitors, may I again congratulate your Honour on your appointment and wish you long and rewarding service to this Court.

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