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Welcome Judge Maree Kennedy


Cite as: (2007) 81(7) LIJ, p. 33

Judge Maree Kennedy was welcomed to the County Court on 7 May. Among the speakers was Law Institute of Victoria president Geoff Provis. An edited version of his speech appears below.

I appear on behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV), and the solicitors of this state, to congratulate your Honour on your appointment to this Court.

Although you spent only 12 months articles in a law firm, you had excellent articles, and that was the foundation for your career at the Bar.

Particularly in the very large firms, articles can be impersonal. That was not the case with your principal, Andrew Guy. You had a desk in his room for the whole of that year.

Given Andrew’s addiction to the speaker phone, having your desk in his room might not always have seemed a blessing.

When your Honour came in 1986, the firm’s merger was quite recent – only a couple of years previously. It was a happy and congenial merger, and Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks was a good place to be.

Moreover, the area including Andrew Guy’s office was something of a vortex – with Ian Renard (now Chancellor of the University of Melbourne), Michael Robinson (then managing partner) and Colin Galbraith (long-time secretary of the Council of Legal Education) all in the immediate vicinity.

Your Honour was in the Mergers & Acquisitions Working Group, and worked closely with Melanie Sloss SC, then a senior associate in the firm, and with Bob Santamaria, whose brothers Joseph and Paul are at the Bar.

Your Honour spent a lot of time on the matter of the attempted takeover of ACI by the Pratt Group and Equity Corporation – acting for ACI.

I’m not sure whether this occurred in your articles year, but that was famously the case in which a solicitor’s file was accidentally left in a bottle shop one Friday evening.

Innocently, and trying to be helpful, the bottle shop proprietor looked in the file to find whose it was. He took it to the office of a named party, who found it quite fascinating, but quietly returned it to the bottle shop so that when the frantic owner came looking, it was there.

Then, as now, Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks (now Allens Arthur Robinson) gave their articled clerks a foundational year in a single working group, and only after that gave them wider experience in the firm.

Your Honour’s move to the Federal Court, the Academy and then straight to the Bar readers’ course denied you that wider experience, but you got the foundational year.

A partner in a major firm that regularly briefed your Honour says that you:

  • “are much-loved by business and government for your ability to cut a swathe through complex commercial problems”; “were an advocate with immense fighting spirit, passion and conviction – what you said, your hearers felt”; and you have been
  • “a mentor, leader and role model for young professional women”.

Your instructing solicitors speak of your thoroughness and diligence.

A government admired your Honour’s ability to bring calm and instil confidence in even Ministerial troubled minds.

Instructors have also spoken highly of your equanimity.

Your Honour recently acquired a black Labrador. You previously had two dogs. One had died at your property in Jamieson. When the other died in Melbourne, it was felt that the dog should be taken to lie with its companion in Jamieson.

Thus it was, when one instructing solicitor got your Honour on your mobile on the way to Jamieson, that you took the call, pulled over on the side of the road, with two tired children in the car, and a dead dog on the roof.

Your instructor says that despite the ambient noise and circumstances you were both calm and lucid.

I know of only one situation in which an instructing solicitor lost your Honour. That was when a child caused a fire in the microwave!

Your instructor spoke on, blissfully unaware of the conflagration and the loss of your attention, until you returned to explain that you’d heard only up to the initial flames and the balance would bear repetition.

All this is part of the rich tapestry of experience and manifold responsibilities that seems to be routine and every day for many women lawyers, but less often the experience of male lawyers.

Your Honour brings to this Court the demonstrated ability to work through such situations. You bring also the habit of thorough analysis informed by scholarly insights.

On behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state, I wish your Honour every success in taking up the challenges of judicial office and service.


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