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Welcome: Judge Amanda Chambers


Cite as: December 2015 89 (12) LIJ, p.26

Judge Amanda Chambers was welcomed as a judge of the County Court of Victoria and President of the Children's Court of Victoria on 10 June 2015. Among the speakers was LIV president Katie Miller. This is an edited version of her speech.

I appear on behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state to congratulate your Honour on your appointment to this Court and as the fourth president of the Children’s Court of Victoria.

I wish to claim you as a government lawyer, based on your time as principal industrial consultant with the Department of Human Services and then senior policy adviser to Industrial Relations Victoria. You are therefore the second government lawyer to be appointed to the bench this year.

Your Honour’s career reflects the current era of the legal profession. As an industrial lawyer in private practice, a government lawyer and a member of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, your Honour has contributed to or led change and improvement to our laws and society. These experiences will place you well to meet the upcoming changes to the Children’s Court’s jurisdiction and powers, which represent the most significant changes to that Court since the Carney Review in 1984.

Your Honour was a student at the Monash Law School in exciting times. Now both emeritus-professors, Ron McCallum and Dr Terry Carney were both teaching at Monash then.

Your Honour has credited Ron McCallum with inspiring you to specialise and practise in the field of industrial relations. He is a passionate teacher and scholar.

From the second year of your arts/law course, your Honour volunteered at the Springvale Legal Service and continued that volunteering into your first year at Slater & Gordon.

Your Honour began at Slater & Gordon in the WorkCover department, and worked with Jennifer Lush. Ms Lush remembers your easy engagement with everyone, both clients and staff, and your cheerful outlook.

Your Honour then moved to the industrial unit, working with future leaders of the profession and, indeed, the country – Josh Bornstein, Bernard Murphy (now Justice Murphy of the Federal Court) and Julia Gillard.

Ms Gillard recalls your Honour as “incredibly intelligent – but before any of that, what strikes you is the warmth, wit and humanity – and that’s how she treats everyone”.

From a very early time there, your Honour was given responsibility for the conduct of cases at Slaters.

Mr Murphy, as he then was, used to do some appearance work, and he involved your Honour in an appearance before the Industrial Relations Commission.

The case arose out of 10 sackings by the Ford Motor Company arising out of industrial action that had resulted in significant damage to vehicles and property.

Mr Murphy appeared for seven of the clients, leaving the other three to your Honour. It has been suggested that his Honour kept for himself those clients which showed the best prospects of success – but given that only one was ultimately successful, that must be surely apocryphal.

It was at Slaters that your Honour was the instructing solicitor for the successful plaintiffs in the landmark discrimination case of Waters v Public Transport Corporation.

Your Honour was utterly committed and assiduous. You took instructions from the 10 named plaintiffs who had a variety of disabilities – and pulled everything together into a case to be presented by counsel. For that purpose, your Honour instructed Tony North QC (now Justice North of the Federal Court) leading Herman Borenstein (now QC).

This was the first case in Victoria, perhaps in Australia, in which government policy was challenged head-on in the courts based on equal opportunity legislation. It remains, to this day, a landmark decision.

After five years at Slater and Gordon, your Honour travelled overseas and, on your return, joined Maurice Blackburn as a senior associate.

Not long after your Honour joined the firm, the second industrial partner left, and your Honour became second in charge under partner David Langmead for the industrial relations department.

In every situation – in a law firm, on the national industrial scene for the Health Services Union, as a consultant and senior policy officer for state government or as a judicial officer in the Magistrates’ Court and part-time commissioner of the Victorian Law Reform Commission – your Honour has very quickly mastered the complexities of your new context and responsibilities.

Just as your Honour took to practice and to your responsibilities as a magistrate, so you applied yourself to the theoretical and conceptual perspectives of your work on the Law Reform Commission – on occasion, joining the discussions by telephone link from your family travels in remote Australia.

On behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state, I congratulate your Honour on your appointments and wish you long, satisfying and distinguished service as a Judge of this Court and in your term as President of the Children’s Court of Victoria.


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