tides of change heading    


From the late 1970s and into the 1980s, women barristers were a visible presence at the Bar, even though they represented only a small proportion of the Bar as a whole.

"If you asked me how things were in the mid-1970s for women, I would have to say that from my observations, things hadn't improved much from my mother's time. She [Joan Rosanove], Molly Kingston and a few other brave stalwarts were battling on - they were the true women before their time." - Justice Margaret (Peg) Lusink
justice margaretJustice Margaret (Peg) Luslink

lillian and betty

The late Lillian Lieder QC and Betty King QC (now Justice King, Supreme Court of Victoria) joined the Bar in the mid-1970s. In 1992, they were the first women barristers practising in criminal law to take silk.

betty king Justice Betty King
lillian Lillian Lieder QC

"Lillian Lieder had the courage to come into this male-dominated Bar at atime when women were thin on the ground. Lil truly was a pioneer. She took the boys on at their own game and won. She earned their respect and their friendship."   - Justice Betty King


Key Dates

1976   First Victorian woman appointed to the Family Court of Australia (Justice Margaret Lusink)
1982 First woman elected to the Bar Council (Rachelle Lewitan)
1983 First female Victorian judicial officer (Francine McNiff) appointed to the Children's Court
1985 First woman appointed to the County Court (Judge Lynnette Schiftan)
1985 First female magistrates appointed (Margaret Rizkalla and Sally Brown)
1987 First woman appointed to the High Court (The Hon. Mary Gaudron QC)

"Whilst in the past a female barrister had been expected and indeed may have expected, to practise exclusively in the area of family law, such is no longer the case... Similarly, whilst almost folkloric stories abound of women barristers in lace collars, or coloured stockings not being 'seen' by some members of the judiciary... such [stories] will necessarily fade as by sheer force of numbers women at the Bar are no longer a recognizable minority group." - Linda Dessau (now Justice Dessau) - Extract from 'A Necessarily Short History of Women at the Bar', Victorian Bar News , Winter 1981

linda dessareauJustice Linda Dessau, Family Court of Australia
lillianJudge Rachelle Lewitan AM, Country Court of Victoria
Chief Magistrate Sally BrownJustice Sally Brown, when Chief Magistrate in 1990
margaret rizkallaJudge Margaret Rizkalla,
in 1994