Michael Kirby Justice Orations

Established in 2010, the annual Michael Kirby Justice Oration provides a platform for leaders within our community to share their experiences, deep understanding, knowledge and reflections on issues of justice.

The Hon. Michael Kirby served on the High Court of Australia with great distinction for thirteen years (1996-2009). The annual Kirby orations pay tribute to his commitment to social justice and human rights and Kirby’s relationship as friend, colleague and mentor to Victoria University’s College of Law & Justice. He is an adjunct professor in the College.

Hon. Michael Kirby in 2015

2023 Oration: Julian P McMahon AC S.C.

 Julian works mainly in criminal law. He accepts briefs in all jurisdictions.

He has been engaged in many long and complex trials, including in homicide, terrorism, corruption, drug, fraud and, outside Australia, death penalty matters. He has considerable experience in numerous overseas jurisdictions.

In 2021 Julian was made a Fellow of Monash University. In 2017 he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia. He has been awarded the Law Council of Australia's President's medal, an honorary Doctorate in Law from the Australian Catholic University, the 2016 Victorian Australian of the Year, and the Victoria Law Foundation Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award.

Julian holds an Indictable Crime Certificate and is a member of the VLA Criminal Trial Preferred Barrister List.

Julian McMahon in front of shelves with large law books. Black and white photo.

2022 Oration: The Hon. Dr Barry Jones AC, FAA

Barry Jones has been a teacher, lawyer, academic, writer and politician, a Labor Member of the Victorian Parliament 1972-77 and the Commonwealth Parliament 1977-98.

He led the successful campaign to abolish the death penalty. His book Sleepers, Wake!: Technology and the Future of Work (1982) became an international best seller, read by Deng Xiaoping and Bill Gates.

Australia’s longest-serving Minister for Science 1983-90, he was the first politician to draw attention to the existential challenge of  climate change/ global warming, and the way that the IT revolution would transform employment and politics.  He represented Australia in Paris at UNESCO 1991-95 and the World Heritage Committee 1995-96 and has consulted for the OECD.

The only person elected to four of Australia’s five learned academies, he became a ‘living national treasure’ in 1997 and was made a Companion of the Order of Australia, the nation’s highest award, in 2014.

What Is To Be Done: Political Engagement and Saving the Planet was a best seller in 2020. The Penalty is Death, first published in 1968, had a second edition, updated and much expanded, in 2022.

Recording & transcript

Painting of The Hon. Dr Barry Jones AC FFA

2021 Oration: Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher, AM, President, Australian Human Rights Commission

Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher, AM, delivered the 10th annual Michael Kirby Justice Oration on 25 August 2021. Her address, titled “Bringing rights home – mapping an agenda on promoting, protecting and fulfilling human rights in Australia”, was introduced by Professor Lidia Xynas, Dean, Victoria Law School, and followed by The Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG, who responded.

Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM FRSA FACLM (Hon) FAAL TEP commenced a seven-year term as President of the Australian Human Rights Commission on 30 July 2017. Prior to joining the Commission, Rosalind was President of the Australian Law Reform Commission (2009–2017) and Commissioner (2007–2009), where she led a number of significant law reform inquiries.

She has lectured and published extensively, principally in the fields of equity, trusts, property, inheritance, legal history and increasingly in public policy. From December 1999 to February 2007 she was Dean of Macquarie Law school. In 2011 she was recognised as one of the 40 ‘inspirational alumni’ of UNSW, where she gained her PhD in legal history and in 2013, she was made an Honorary Life Member of the Women Lawyers’ Association of New South Wales.

In 2014 she was acknowledged for her contributions to public policy as one of Australia’s ‘100 Women of Influence’ in the Australian Financial Review and Westpac awards, and for her ‘outstanding contribution to the legal profession’ was awarded the Australian Women Lawyer’s award.

In 2015 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for ‘significant service to the law as an academic, to legal reform and education, to professional development, and to the arts’; in 2018, UNSW conferred on her an honorary LLD; and, in the same year, she was appointed as Patron of The Lawyers Orchestra Inc.

Watch the oration

Download the oration as text (PDF,165.85 KB)

Emiritus Professer Rosalind Croucher, wearing white jacket, smiles at the camera

2019 Oration: Her Excellency Vicki Treadell CMG, MVO, British High Commissioner to Australia

Her Excellency Vicki Treadell CMG, MVO delivered the 9th annual Michael Kirby Justice Oration on 27 August 2019. The address was titled “Universal Values – Justice & Fairness”.

Her Excellency Vicki Treadell CMG, MVO, took up her appointment as British High Commissioner to Australia on 13 March 2019. As High Commissioner, she will continue to advance and maintain the relationship between the UK and Australia. The High Commissioner is the UK government’s representative in a Commonwealth nation.

Mrs Treadell has held senior roles in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office since she began her Foreign Service career in 1979. Most recently, she served as the British High Commissioner to Malaysia (2014 to 2019) and New Zealand (2010 to 2014) and Deputy High Commissioner to India (2006 to 2010). Additionally, Mrs Treadell was Director of UK Trade and Investment for the North West of England from 2002 to 2005 where she was responsible for driving trade and investment as a key pillar of regional and economic development.

Watch the recording of Vicki Treadell CMG, MVO's oration

2018 Oration: Hon. Gareth Evans AC QC

Hon. Gareth Evans AC QC delivered the eighth annual Michael Kirby Justice Oration on 26 September 2018.

Gareth Evans was a cabinet minister throughout the Hawke-Keating era as Attorney-General, Minister for Resources & Energy and Transport & Communications, and from 1988 to 1996 he was Foreign Minister. He led the Brussels-based International Crisis Group from 2000 to 2009, and is now Chancellor and Honorary Professorial Fellow at the Australian National University.

He co-chaired major international commissions on mass atrocity crimes and nuclear weapons, has won many national and international awards and has written or edited thirteen books, most recently Incorrigible Optimist: A Political Memoir (MUP, 2017), Nuclear Weapons: The State of Play (ANU, 2015), Inside the Hawke Keating Government: A Cabinet Diary (MUP, 2014) and The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes (Brookings, 2009).

The Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG will introduce Hon. Gareth Evans AC QC who will deliver an address on Crimes against Humanity: Does the Responsibility to Protect have a Future.

2017 Oration: Gillian Triggs

Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs delivered the seventh annual Michael Kirby Justice Oration.

Professor Triggs' address was titled "Overreach of Executive & Ministerial Discretion: A threat to Australian democracy".

The annual oration provides a platform for leaders within our community to share their experiences, deep understanding, knowledge and reflections on issues of justice.

Emeritus Professor Triggs, an international lawyer and former dean of the University of Sydney’s law school:

  • Was President of the Australian Human Rights Commission by The Hon. Nicola Roxon (Adjunct Professor, Victoria University)
  • In 2012 prompted a major inquiry into children in immigration detention. The Forgotten Children report was handed down in 2015, and included a chapter dedicated to the plight of 116 children detained on Nauru.

2016 Oration: The Hon. Jeff Kennett

Speaking to a lecture theatre, The Hon. Jeffrey Kennett posed the question "Is Australia’s system of government best placed for the 22nd Century?" 

The Hon. Jeff Kennett’s lively oration addressed a number of key issues including:

  • generational unemployment
  • reforming tiers of government
  • the importance of strong leadership, and
  • addressing Australia's rising suicide figures.

The 40-minute oration was an opportunity for The Hon. Mr Kennett to reflect on career highlights and engage with issues that personally resonate with the former Victorian Premier and founder of beyondblue, the national depression and anxiety initiative.

More info on The Hon. Jeff Kennett's Sixth Annual Michael Kirby Justice Oration.

2015 Oration: The Hon. Julia Gillard

Speaking to a full lecture theatre in the heart of Melbourne’s legal precinct, The Hon. Julia Gillard tackled equality and challenges to reform in her address at the annual Michael Justice Kirby Oration.

Dr Gillard seized the opportunity to discuss marriage equality and modern challenges to good governance.

She said she had developed a sense of concern about the Abbott government’s proposal to have a plebiscite or referendum on same sex marriage, and flagged potential long-term ramifications the proposal could have on democracy and Australia’s future capacity to reform.

I feel a responsibility to respectfully lay out a case for rejecting this idea of a plebiscite or referendum and, with your indulgence, I intend to do so this evening. 

Indeed, given the important lessons Michael (Kirby) and his much loved partner Johan have taught our nation about bravery, honesty and inclusion, there could be no better occasion than tonight for me to make these remarks.

Recording & transcript

2014 Oration: Julian Burnside AO QC

Internationally-renowned human rights and refugee advocate, Mr Julian Burnside AO QC presented the 4th Michael Kirby Justice Oration on refugee law and policy in Australia. His oration was entitled Unenlightened self-interest.

Addressing the large audience of Victoria University law students, University staff and industry guests, Mr Burnside said that a human being’s basic urges of survival, comfort and justice are all drawn from self-interest.

But he said that ‘enlightened’ self-interest showed that mutual benefits can be obtained if you take the interests of other people into account, and that this can prevent injustice.

“It’s a false calculation when someone else pays the price and you take the benefit,” he said. “The idea that in a free country like Australia we can be persuaded of the rightness of allowing a person’s rights to be trashed even though they are not allowed to know the evidence against them is deeply distressing.”

Previous Michael Kirby Justice Orations

  • 2013: The Hon. Justice Yvonne Murphy on church and state and the challenge of investigating child sexual abuse with religious organisations in Ireland
  • 2011: Chief Magistrate, Ian Gray on sentencing and other controversial issues
  • 2010: Michael Kirby on social justice and human rights.