In January 2017, Susan Kiefel was sworn in as the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of Australia. That she came into the law without any prior social or family connection, marked her as an outlier in the upper echelons of the profession.
Born in Cairns, Susan attended Sandgate District State High School, leaving at the age of 15. She went on to complete secretarial training at Kangaroo Point Technical College on a scholarship while working as a receptionist to a group of barristers. During this time, she completed secondary school and began studying law.
Moving to a new firm as a legal clerk, Susan completed her education at night, passing her Barristers Admission Board Course with honours. Appointed as the youngest-ever Queen’s Counsel in Queensland at 33 years of age, she went on to complete a Master of Laws (LLM) at the University of Cambridge. While at Cambridge, Susan met her future husband, Michael Albrecht, a social anthropologist who was the coach of her college rowing crew.
Appointments to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, the Supreme Court of Queensland, the Federal Court of Australia and the High Court of Australia followed. In 2011, she was named a Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to the law and to the judiciary, to law reform and to legal education in the areas of ethics, justice and governance.