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An excerpt from the transcript of the Ceremonial sitting of the Full Court to welcome Justice Kyrou, reproduced with permission of the Federal Court of Australia

28 June 2023


Chief Justice, fellow Judicial Officers, Attorney-General, distinguished guests, friends, family, and legal practitioners, thank you for your attendance. In particular I thank the Attorney-General, Mr Dunning, Mr Hay and Mr Murphy for their kind words.

I wish to place on record my deep respect for all of our First Nations People and to acknowledge the vital role of their Elders.

I am in a small minority of Judges who have been spoilt by having two welcomes. I remember well my first welcome on 22 May 2008 in the Banco Court. Then, my wife Peris, children John, William, Stephen and Catherine, my parents John and Stella, my brother Theo, his wife Nadene, and my nieces Stephanie and Elise sat proudly in the jury box. Today my family has expanded to include two daughters-in-law, Renee and Janine, a son-in-law, Nik, and two grandchildren, Luke and Demi. Ta mikra vlepoun ton pappou tous apo to spiti. Roughly translated, that means the little ones are watching their grandfather from home. Sadly, both my parents have passed away.

I am very eclectic about the Greek customs and practices that I follow. One that I passionately embrace is the centrality of family in one's life. If I say too much about my family I will probably get sentimental, so all I will say is that I love all members of my family dearly and I am extremely grateful for their ongoing patience, tolerance and support.

This morning's welcome also doubles as a farewell, in the sense that it gives me the opportunity to thank my erstwhile colleagues at the Supreme Court of Victoria. I thoroughly enjoyed my 15 years as a Judge of the Court. I had the good fortune of working with four exceptional judicial leaders, Marilyn Warren, Anne Ferguson, Chris Maxwell, and Karin Emerton. I also had the good fortune, back in 2008, of being allocated two judicial mentors, David Ashley and Stephen Kaye. They helped me enormously and became good friends.

I also want to acknowledge two mentors who have advised and guided me for over 40 years, Bernie Teague and Gordon Lewis. Bernie is now 85 years of age and continues to give freely of his time to assist the legal profession. Sadly, Gordon passed away last year. I am pleased that his wife Rhonda is here today.

In the past 15 years I was made to look good by 10 diverse and brilliant associates, Howard Choo, Shaun Gladman, Georgina Dimopoulos, Katherine Cooke, Nuwan Dias, Caitlin Brown, Lucy Radowicz, Corinna Virtanen, Lydia Taylor-Moss and Duncan Willis. I was also kept in line by three wonderful personal assistants, Yve Williams, Olivia Nicola and Anne Daish. I am very grateful that Duncan and Anne have joined me at the AAT.

And, so, my Supreme Court chapter has come to an end. That chapter has been replaced by two parallel chapters: the Federal Court chapter and the AAT chapter. I very much look forward to working with my new colleagues at the Court and the AAT. Both institutions are of fundamental importance to our system of justice at the national level. It is a great honour and privilege for me to be a member of both of them. I also look forward to working with the profession. Both branches of the profession play a vital role in assisting our Courts and Tribunals to advance the administration of justice.

I must say that the selection process for President of the AAT was very rigorous. Applicants were vetted by a selection committee comprising the Secretary of the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department, James Allsop, and Ray Finkelstein. In the early 1990s, as a solicitor, I used to brief Ray and paid him well to cross-examine people. I never thought that three decades later he would be cross-examining me.

When my proposed appointment was announced on 24 May this year I had a rather awkward conversation with a friend who is very commercially minded and focused. He was curious as to why I had decided to swap my role as a Judge of Appeal for that of a Federal Court Judge and President of the AAT. Our conversation went something like this:

         Will you get paid more?

         No. I will get paid less.

         Will you be more senior?

         No. I will be the most junior Judge on the Federal Court.

         Will you get more leave?

         Do you hate your current job?

         No. I love it, particularly the collegiality of the Court of Appeal.

        Then why are you moving?

My answer to the last question involved more than one sentence. I explained to my friend that the AAT's function of reviewing administrative decisions on their merits is fundamental to ensuring fairness, transparency, and accountability in the exercise of Governmental power that affects the community. I told him that the Federal Government proposes to improve the current system by introducing legislation to replace the AAT with a new body, and that I will be given the opportunity to contribute to the reform process and lead the new body.

I said that, at 63 years of age, the new role presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to serve the Australian community by helping to shape the new system of merits review. I acknowledged that the job would present significant challenges, and that the community, through the Government, would be entrusting me with enormous responsibilities. I said that I was prepared to work tirelessly, and had confidence that, with support and teamwork, that trust would be honoured.

I ended the conversation by saying that I believe personal and institutional renewal is very important for the health of both the individual and the institution, and that I was keen to make a difference in my new roles.

The full transcript from the Ceremonial sitting of the Full Court to welcome Justice Kyrou is available on the Federal Court of Australia website.