speechI was recently reading an article in the Australian Feminist Law Journal (who would have thought?) entitled “Telling a History of Australian Women Judges Through Courts’ Ceremonial Archives”. At a judicial swearing in, speeches are given to welcome the new judge (who also gives an acceptance speech). The speeches have been described as “a combination between a eulogy for the living and an Academy Award acceptance speech.” The following example is from the speech by Mr Ackman of the Victorian Bar Council at the swearing in of Justice Victoria Bennett as a Family Court judge in 2005 . Even I find this cringeworthy:

“As you would know, there are two particular problems in becoming a mother when you are a busy professional. Firstly, you have to find time to conceive and then you need to find time to deliver.

Your Honour solved the latter problem in her usual efficient way. You decided to give birth in court. Wilczek J was attempting to deliver himself of judgment when, unknown to him, your Honour was attempting to deliver yourself of something else. His Honour took your contractions to be groans of disapproval. Between contractions, and as your Honour was being carted [out] of court on a stretcher, your Honour was still trying to explain to his Honour how he got it wrong. The issue of finding time to conceive is not solved so easily, particularly for a woman who works late and gets up at 3 am to continue working. Even with all of the down court hours and the dark courts we sometimes see around here, conceiving in court is clearly not an option.”

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph.

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