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Welcome of Justice Jillian Williams - Family Court of Australia

Welcome of Justice Jillian Williams - Family Court of Australia

By LIV Media

Courts 

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LIV Past President Caroline Counsel welcomed Justice Jillian Williams to the Family Court of Australia on 27 February 2019.

May it please the court.

I appear on behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria and the solicitors of this state to welcome Your Honour Jillian Williams as a judge of the Family Court of Australia.

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we gather and pay our respects to their Elders, past and present, and to any Elders with us today.

Teeing off last here equates to addressing a difficult lie on a fairway. I don’t know what that means as I do not play golf but I am hoping that Your Honour does?

In golfing parlance, so I am told, it’s somewhat akin to strategically laying up to avoid the hazard of repetition.

Given that Your Honour is a keen golfer, I must choose the right clubs to address this handicap.

When you were appointed to the Federal Circuit Court three years ago, the groan from the packed gallery of solicitors at their loss carried far across the profession.

Twenty-two years a solicitor before eight at the Bar established a reputation that has driven – like the sweet ping of a five iron – universal praise.

Your renowned unflappable demeanour, sensitivity and decisive manner continued on the Federal Circuit Court.

Leanne Abela, principal lawyer with Pearsons Lawyers, has long admired your courteous, composed and generous nature - unchanged and unshakable traits.

You have both partnered effectively for charitable events - celebrating the achievements of women in the law and the court, supporting women less privileged and once organising five car loads of clothes for St Paul’s Chapter House. What you were doing with five car loads of clothes to begin with is anyone’s guess.

Despite sometimes challenging conditions and difficult players, Your Honour has mastered some rough rounds these past three years.

No-one, however, could say you ever landed out of bounds – the appeal scorecard of never being rolled by the Full Court attests to that.

And the only shanks were those you cooked to perfection at home. Lamb I presume?

Your Honour’s patience with and fairness to practitioners and parties has been exhibited through common sense and logical thought.

As in golf, you have maintained consistent ethics and standards. And when tested Your Honour has stood firm.

Like when your husband-barrister John, a life and golfing partner, offers well-meaning coaching lessons during a round. His overly persistent advice once led to the striking of the so-called “Coolum Agreement” – basically, if John didn’t shut up you would leave the course.

Like the legendary “Kirribilli Agreement” between Messrs Hawke and Keating, this one was also broken, but with far less public attention….until today that is.

We are not privy to the exchanges which transpired between you when Your Honour (known to outdrive John), took golfing lessons and then you later discovered that John had sought help from the same coach!

One of the toughest rounds Your Honour played was confronting a callover of Melbourne matters introduced by Chief Justice Alstergren to address significant Family Court backlogs.

The Chief Justice and judges Norah Hartnett and Alexander Harland made up the foursome Ambrose group.

More than 200 matters were addressed between November 2017 and March last year. Your Honour case managed many of them when they returned for a compliance hearing after being referred to mediation, conciliation conferences or other alternative dispute resolution avenues.

You were instrumental in assisting many parties settle their disputes and that assistance that achieved the highest national settlement rate of 66% across the three callovers.

This was undertaken by you whilst you continued to hear trials and manage your usual docket of Family Law matters that involved 600-odd cases.

Throughout the process, Your Honour maintained a firm grip, free of the yips, replaced any directional divots and employed an open stance. No need to tell me what the yips are – I have seen enough tournament playoffs on TV.

It was the same approach when Your Honour presented at a number of LIV Continuing Professional Development sessions, but at one in December last year you suffered a sudden fade.

Upon leaving the rostrum you felt faint, your fall caught by Lander & Rogers’ nimble consultant David Gillard. Your Honour recovered quickly and then fielded questions, including some curly ones. The episode is a testament to Your Honour’s spirit and fighting qualities.

Ken Johnson is a renowned Australian artist of coastal and outback landscapes whose many original works adorn your family home and chambers. Ken speaks warmly of your close, supportive friendship and Your Honour’s love of family and dogs. He says your insatiable thirst for knowledge, incredible memory and enviable eye for detail – is inspiring.

It leaves me now with a simple tap-in to note that Your Honour will continue to have as your Associate Paul Moss.

And your cocker spaniel - now appropriately uplifted to Justice Lily – will also maintain her spot in chambers.

We wish Your Honour well as you continue to serve the court, the rule of law and the community. May it please the court.


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