The Australian Government announced today that the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Stephen Gageler, has been appointed to the country’s highest court directly from the bar.  Mr Gageler replaces Justice Bill Gummow who retires in October, after 17 years on the High Court.  It is now unusual for appointments to be made to the High Court directly from the Bar, the last was Ian Callinan QC in 1997.

The Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said although she had promised consulted widely, the process had resulted in the appointment of a very traditional candidate – a male from Sydney.  “Mr Gageler’s name was on the top of many, many lists from the profession, from the state attorneys-general, from those across the political spectrum“, she said.

Mr Gageler’s appointment was welcomed across the political spectrum.  The Australian press emphasised  his humble roots, the “Australian’s” article was entitled “Stephen Gageler’s journey from bush to the bench“, describing him as “the son of a hairdresser and a sawmiller from country NSW“.  The “Sydney Morning Herald” described him as “a sawmiller’s son with a black belt in taekwondo, saying that

“Mr Gageler had humble beginnings, growing up on a property near the tiny NSW Hunter Valley village of Sandy Hollow.  He attended Muswellbrook High School before studying economics and law at the Australian National University and the prestigious Harvard University in the United States. He served as an associate to former High Court judge Anthony Mason before forging a distinguished legal career in Sydney”.

The man Mr Gageler replaces, Justice Gummow, a co-author of the leading textbook Meagher, Gummow and Lehane on Equityis the longest serving of the seven justices of the High Court of Australia – presently 4 men and 3 women.