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Welcome to Judge Michael Bourke


Cite as: (2002) 76(10) LIJ, p.25

Recently appointed County Court Judge Michael Bourke was welcomed to the County Court at a ceremony on 12 September 2002. Among the speakers was Law Institute president David Faram. An edited version of his speech follows.

Your Honour was educated at St Kevin’s College and the University of Melbourne, before being admitted to practice in 1979.

Your embrace of scholarship, so carefully nurtured at the University of Melbourne, continues to this day in your position as respected member and leading light of that centre of intellectual pursuits, the Celtic Club. You are often to be found late at night at the Celtic Club, putting in long hours at piano recitals, poetry readings and debates about the future of western civilisation.

Indeed, several of your Honour’s instructing solicitors are under the impression that the Celtic Club houses your chambers.

Those not under this impression seem to believe that your Honour’s chambers are in a corner of the Melbourne Knights clubrooms in Sunshine. As we have heard, you are a staunch convert to the world game and rarely miss a home match.

During these games, a queue forms outside the clubrooms and when asked who they want to see, those in line usually reply that they’re waiting to see “a bloke called Bourkie” who they’ve been told can help them with a driving offence. This is apparently your Honour.

But your Honour’s sporting interests extend well beyond the Melbourne Knights. You were a good footballer and cricketer, representing St Kevin’s in the first eleven.

At the University of Melbourne, you played with both the University Blacks and the University Blues – both then “A” grade teams.

Terry Forrest QC played with your Honour for the University Blacks. After one win, the two of you had been out celebrating and returned to the Forrest household rather late. On seeing your condition of “youthful exuberance”, the late Judge Forrest retired to his room and fell to his knees in prayer on behalf of your Honour.

Your appointment to this Court took a number of years in coming, but proves that one should never discount the power of prayer.

Your Honour fancies yourself as a bowler, is often opening batsman and occasionally keeps wicket – a matter that may give rise to concerns about your suitability for judicial office, bearing in mind Banjo Patterson’s observation that all wicketkeepers are cheats.

You may take comfort from the fact that should such a slur be cast on your probity, the character of that other judicial wicketkeeper, Judge Smallwood, will also be called into question.

Your Honour has always had an interest in horses – from a safe distance.

In 1982, you backed Kingston Town to win his third Cox Plate. This was a race the champion should not have won – but did. Flushed with success, you lectured your companions loud and long on the importance of “always backing class”.

Unfortunately, later that day, you rejected the long odds offered on champion Manikato in the AJ Moir Stakes to support instead a horse called Rancher. Your Honour also ignored your own advice in taking an interest in a horse called Dvorjak – an animal of severely limited ability that was about as classy as a solicitor at a Law Institute Christmas function.

You have also established a reputation as a rap-dancer. This can be traced back to a Christmas in July party at the Celtic Club, when you took to the dance floor, spinning around on your back and executing a series of complicated manoeuvres that you apparently believed to be rap-dancing. Others were not so sure – but gave you the benefit of the doubt.

Although renowned for your fairness as a prosecutor, you have not been known for sartorial elegance. Your Honour’s gown is torn and your Bar jacket is missing a button, with other buttons looking quite perilous.

As recently as April this year, on circuit at Wangaratta, the jury sent word out through the tipstaff that they wanted to pass the hat around for the prosecutor so he could get some new togs.

You have a reputation for being very generous with your time and advice. A colleague has described your Honour as having “never been concerned with success but with human values”.

It is a great compliment and a great reflection on your professional and personal life.

On behalf of the solicitors of Victoria, I congratulate you on your appointment and wish your Honour long and distinguished service in this Court.


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