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Farewell Judge Michael Strong


Cite as: (2008) 82(7) LIJ, p. 41

Judge Michael Strong was farewelled from the County Court at a ceremony on 30 April. Among the speakers was LIV president Tony Burke. This is an edited version of his speech.

I appear on behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state to pay tribute to your Honour’s service to this Court and to wish you all the best for the future.

You have deep roots in the solicitors’ branch of the profession.

Your father, John, and grandfather, William, both practised as solicitors in Corowa and Rutherglen. You served five years long articles with Loel Caldwell, taking the RMIT articled clerks’ course.

On admission in April 1972, you went to Mallesons (now Mallesons Stephen Jaques). You worked principally in litigation, and with the late Graham Dethridge.

You were at Mallesons for three years before going to the Bar in April 1975. So you had the solid foundation of a total of eight years in solicitors’ offices.

Then president Jonathan Mott spoke for the LIV at your welcome and noted the distinguished lineage of Presbyterian ministers and solicitors from whom you are descended.

One of those forebears was the Reverend Dr Charles Strong, who was the minister at Scots Church, Melbourne from 1875 to 1883. Well ahead of the times, he advocated justice for Aboriginal people. He urged prison reform and the abolition of capital punishment. He worked for working men and their families and for children, particularly special needs children. So, to use a horseracing term, you come from good stock.

Your Presbyterian solicitor father married one Mary Margaret McNamara and under her influence you were directed to the Jesuits at Xavier College in Melbourne for your education.

It’s open to conjecture as to whether your Xavier education or your Presbyterian forebears should take greater credit for your good works with Berry Street for children and young people, and your work for the advancement of Aboriginal people.

Berry Street is a very substantial operation. It looks after thousands of Victorian children and young people every year. You served on the Berry Street board for some 16 years and were president from 1997 to 2000 and again in 2003-04.

Your exceptional commitment and generosity to Berry Street, and your wisdom and passion on the board, were recognised in 2001 by life membership.

The Judicial Officers Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Committee was established by Justice Geoff Eames, and is now chaired by Justice Stephen Kaye. You are a longstanding and valuable member of that committee.

The committee organises presentations to judicial officers of all Victorian courts and tribunals, and federal judicial officers in Victoria.

A couple of weeks ago, your associate Sharon Barnes was one of a panel of six Indigenous lawyers who made a presentation at the Judicial College. There was, as they say, frank and open discussion.

So, too, with your associate membership of Tarwirri – the Indigenous Law Students and Lawyers Association of Victoria.

As with Berry Street, your commitment and engagement there is personal.

Last year, on circuit in Morwell, you volunteered and spoke at a Tarwirri educational session for local Indigenous secondary school teachers – also attended by local Aboriginal Elders.

You worked through Tarwirri in extending the search for a new associate to actively seek Aboriginal applicants. Sharon Barnes, a Melbourne Law School graduate who applied through Tarwirri, won selection.

Your singing in the chorus of the Victorian State Opera is well known, as are your vocal contributions to the Bar Dinner and the 2003 Justice Cabaret.

You also sang the role of the judge in Trial by Jury The old Melbourne Magistrates’ Court became the English Court of the Exchequer for the night.

Now, of course, no ceremonial sitting would be complete without a passing reference to Australian Rules Football.

The government and the Bar have shown what they probably claim to be “sensitivity” in not saying a word thus far of your Honour’s longstanding support for the presently forlorn Melbourne Football Club.

We solicitors are less coy and used to straight talking.

It’s been more than 40 years since the Demons won the flag – and still counting.

Straight losses so far this season – but who’s still counting?

Perhaps that dogged and loyal support will stand you in good stead when tomorrow you take up your new role as, and I quote the statutory description: “Director, Police Integrity”. It will be a challenging role and one that will attract close public scrutiny. Your decision to accept the call to this vital work for Victoria and the Victoria Police is courageous.

On behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state, I wish your Honour and your wife Anne all the best for the future.


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