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Farewell Justice Heather Carter


Justice Heather Carter was farewelled from the Family Court on 18 July. 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 professional life in the law and, in particular, your service as a judge of this Court.

Although your initial admission to practice was in NSW in June 1971, after satisfying the then Barristers’ Board requirements you didn’t practise law until after reciprocal admission in Victoria in June 1972.

Remarkably, although you had neither served articles with a solicitor, nor read with a barrister to qualify for admission in New South Wales, you managed to persuade Sir George Paton, then Secretary of the Victorian Supreme Court Board of Examiners, that you should not be required to serve articles here.

At your welcome, you described Sir George as having reached this decision only, and I quote: “after much earnest and anxious deliberation”.

That you managed to thus persuade Sir George signified a remarkable determination and foreshadowed advocacy skills that would bode well for your later career as an advocate.

No doubt emboldened by that early win you then responded to Anthony Rose’s advertisement for a solicitor of “up to a year’s experience”, even though you had no experience. You had not done articles. You had not completed the Leo Cussen Institute practical training course, then the only real alternative to articles in this state.

No doubt captivated by your determination, Anthony Rose gave you your start in the profession. That was in 1972. He attended your welcome, and is here today.

When you began as a solicitor with Anthony Rose in Albert Park, John Wilczek was a solicitor with John McCluskey in Port Melbourne and Nahum Mushin was a solicitor with Lester Pearn & Fielden in Oakleigh.

You all appeared as solicitor-advocates before the stipendiary magistrates and justices of the peace in the Magistrates’ Courts around Melbourne.

Your Honour and Justice Mushin both went to the Bar. All three of you were appointed to, and served as judges of, this Court.

In 1975, your Honour left Anthony Rose to go to Colin Lobb whose practice was in Mount Waverley, much closer to where you lived in Glen Waverley.

You became an associate at CBA Lobb & Associates.

It is a mark of the extraordinarily high regard in which he held you that Mr Lobb chose your Honour to represent him personally in a matter in court that was of importance to him – and which was hotly contested. His confidence in you was vindicated as your representation of your principal was wholly successful. No doubt it had your undivided attention.

At your welcome, you spoke of the contribution that your six years experience as a solicitor made to your later success at the Bar.

Solicitors who briefed you praise your meticulous preparation, your fierce loyalty and your formidable advocacy – also your courtesy to them and their staff, and to their clients.

You were often briefed in opposition to silk – and always acquitted yourself well.

Instructors have remarked on your uncanny ability to capture and meticulously record detailed and lengthy orders as they are rattled off at high speed by judicial officers, as others flounder and get lost.

Your Honour has been an excellent judge. You said at your welcome that you knew much was expected of you. You said: “I will do my best, I will try my hardest and I will work hard”.

You have done all that.

You also cited Sir Owen Dixon’s statement that the most important person in the Court is the litigant who is going to lose. It is that person who must leave the Court satisfied with the system, and that he and his case have had fair treatment and every chance.

You characterised that as a counsel of perfection and impossible to achieve. All to whom I’ve spoken believe that you’ve come as close to achieving that as anyone could.

On behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state, I wish your Honour every happiness in your retirement.


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