The Hon Justice Jane Mathews
LLB 1962, LLD 2000
The Hon Justice Jane Hamilton Mathews came to the University of Sydney direct from boarding school at the age of 17. At that time there was only one law school in New South Wales and very few female law students. Jane undertook a straight law course and graduated in 1962, and having completed her articles she was admitted as a solicitor in 1963 and worked in that capacity for approximately six years, specialising in litigation.
In 1969 Jane left work as a solicitor and was admitted to the NSW Bar. At that time there were approximately eight women barristers in NSW, almost all of them specialising in family law. Her particular speciality was criminal law and also, to a lesser extent, defamation. In 1975 and 1976 she was Counsel Assisting the Commonwealth Royal Commission on Human Relationships.
In 1978 Jane was appointed Crown Prosecutor - the first woman to have held that position. In 1980 she was appointed Judge of the District Court of New South Wales, the first woman on any New South Wales court. It was at about this time that she became particularly interested in issues relating to women in the law. She conducted considerable research on this subject, and delivered a number of papers. It became an abiding interest which exists to this day.
In 1985 Jane was appointed Senior Judicial Member of the NSW Equal Opportunity Tribunal. Those were the early days of anti-discrimination legislation in Australia which made this period one of the most stimulating and rewarding times of her professional life.
In 1987 Jane was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court of NSW - the first female judge of that court, and the second female to be appointed to any Supreme Court in the country. On the Supreme Court Jane continued to specialise in criminal law, both presiding over criminal trials and sitting in the Court of Criminal Appeal.
During that time she also held a number of other positions. She was a member of the Board of Governors of the New South Wales College of Law, President of the Arts Law Centre of Australia, Chair of the Visiting Committee for the Faculty of Law at the University of Wollongong and a trustee of the Aids Trust of Australia. In 1992, she became foundation Australian Director of the newly formed International Association of Women Judges, and since 2004 she has been the Association's President. ‘This wonderful organisation,’ she notes, ‘boasts a very large and diverse membership, and instructs judges (both men and women) in developing countries about the application of international human rights norms into domestic law.’