’78er and High Court Justice Virginia Bell, has been recognised in this year’s Australia Day Honours list.
Bell has been appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia by the Australian Honours Secretariat for her “eminent service to the judiciary and to the law through leadership in criminal law reform and public policy development, to judicial administration, and as an advocate for the economically and socially disadvantaged”.
Bell became a High Court justice when she was appointed to fill a vacancy left by Justice Michael Kirby, Australia’s first openly gay High Court judge, after 10 years serving on the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
Bell began her legal career as a solicitor in 1978 and took part in the first Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978 where participants were beaten and arrested by police.
As a young activist and lawyer Bell, together with the late John Terry, provided legal defence to the 53 people arrested during the protest and went on to protest the charges and continued police harassment of gays, women and Indigenous Australians under the NSW Summary Offences Act.
Bell is a former president of the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration and was Counsel Assisting to the Woods Royal Commission into Police Corruption from 1994-1997.