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Welcome Judge Frances Millane


Cite as: (2004) 78(1-2) LIJ, p. 34

Recently appointed County Court Judge Frances Millane was welcomed to the County Court at a ceremony on 12 December 2003. Among the speakers was then Law Institute president Bill O’Shea. An edited version of his speech follows.

Your Honour attended Coburg High School and completed a bachelor of jurisprudence at Monash University in 1975, bachelor of laws in 1977 and a masters of law in 1987, also at Monash.

Your Honour did a minor thesis on civil liability for sporting injury.

This might explain why you abandoned your netball career at Monash. We are reliably informed that the non-Monash players were too rough. It would appear from the match reports that the bonds of sisterhood were temporarily set aside and that your Honour was prepared to go toe to toe in the goal circle.

Your Honour completed articles at Newton Super & Kovacs and between 1978 and 1983 was a solicitor and senior associate at Phillips Fox & Masel (now Phillips Fox), practising in common law and insurance litigation.

During many years as a lawyer, you practised in a wide range of jurisdictions.

In 1997, you were appointed a judicial registrar of the Federal Court of Australia.

Because of the delegated powers exercised by judicial registrars, your Honour dealt with a wide range of cases including admiralty matters, corporations law matters, bankruptcy and trade practices disputes.

After leaving the Federal Court a year later, you returned to the Bar and practised in a wide field.

As well, your Honour held a sessional appointment at VCAT. Between 1994 and 2001, your Honour served as a member and, from 1999, as the deputy chair of the Kildonan Child Care and Family Services Council.

Kildonan is a non-profit community service organisation operated by the Uniting Church which provides welfare and family services.

Your own family has offered you many opportunities for a brush with fame.

While you were a young student at Coburg High, your sister was working for Bob Hawke, then ACTU president. For a school project you secured an interview with the Great Man through the family connection.

Your Honour proceeded to take an old reel-to-reel tape recorder to the interview.

After getting back from the interview, your Honour found that there had been a technical failure of your old tape recorder.

Instead of a recording of Bob Hawke it was more like “Bob Squawk” – in fact the ACTU leader sounded like a chipmunk. Never deterred, your Honour took the machine to the local audio shop and the repairman there apparently fixed it.

Your Honour duly played the tape to the class and scored an “A” for the project.

Unbeknown to your Honour, the repairman in the shop had trouble fixing it and so in desperation, listened to Bob Squawk and then impersonated Bob Hawke onto a tape in the “restored” version, which you unwittingly played to the class, fooling everyone.

As convenor of the Victorian Women Barristers’ Association, you have led the charge on the equal opportunity briefing policy to ensure women barristers receive their fair share of work at the Bar.

Your Honour has fought tooth and nail to ensure the policy was adopted by the Bar Council and Institute.

Your Honour has managed to get the issue out through to the broader legal community – and indeed the community generally.

You have rarely let an opportunity pass when talking about this important issue.

During this year’s highly successful Commonwealth Law Conference, your Honour was a rapporteur for a session at the conference, “The Commonwealth – women and the law”, which featured Cherie Booth QC.

You also addressed the international conference on women and the law in London earlier this year on the equal opportunity briefing policy.

It gives me enormous pleasure to welcome your Honour to this Court.

Your colleagues describe you as a compassionate, caring person who will bring an intelligent awareness of ordinary people to the judiciary.

According to an exhaustive survey of your Honour’s colleagues, it is clear that you are known to have your ear to the ground on many issues affecting lawyers and the legal community.

It is your record in the profession that equips your Honour so eminently for the high office to which you have been appointed. We are sure you will be a resounding success.

The Institute and the solicitors of Victoria we represent wish you well for many happy and successful years as a member of this honourable Court.


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