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Michael Kirby

Michael Kirby, AC, CMG, (born 18 March 1939) is an Australian retired judge, jurist, and academic who is a former Justice of the High Court of Australia, serving from 1996 to 2009.

Michael Kirby reviews ‘William Blackstone: Law and Letters in The Eighteenth-Century’ by Wilfrid Prest

March 2009, no. 309 01 March 2009
In life, timing is everything. Charles Darwin’s classifications of the species appeared in England at a moment when religious dogmatism was not powerful enough to suppress his notions about evolution. In the 1940s Alfred Kinsey turned his attention from gall wasps to the scrutiny of human sexual behaviour. He would not have got away with it in rural Indiana but for chance events, including a gre ... (read more)

Michael Kirby reviews 'Religion and Culture in Asia Pacific' by Joseph Camilleri

July 2001, no. 232 01 July 2001
The huge changes that have occurred in Australia in the space of a century were reflected in the recent centenary of Federation celebrations in Melbourne. They were evident, for example, in the repeated acknowledgment of Aboriginal Australians and in the selection of a young female Asian-Australian to speak on behalf of the future. The most significant absentee from the Melbourne ceremony was not ... (read more)

Michael Kirby on 'Books in a land of paradox'

June 1988, no. 101 01 June 1988
The Chief Justice of New Zealand opened his recent judgment on the attempts to suppress the book Spycatcher by Peter Wright with the comment that it was ‘probably the most litigated book in all of history’. That may be correct; although I suspect that the Bible may yet have a slight edge. The Bible was probably the first book carried from the ships of the First Fleet when they anchored in Syd ... (read more)

Michael Kirby reviews 'Songs without Music: Aesthetic dimensions of law and justice' by Desmond Manderson

September 2001, no. 234 01 September 2001
This is not an easy book to read. It is crammed full of ideas, literary and musical allusions, and theories about law and justice. The author’s basic thesis – that law is a concept imperfectly realised, continuously reinterpreted, and always in flux – is not really controversial in legal circles in Australia today, let alone novel. The most influential legal scholar in Australia’s history, ... (read more)

Michael Kirby reviews 'Habeas Corpus: From England to Empire' by Paul D. Halliday

April 2011, no. 330 24 March 2011
In the days when every Australian law student studied legal history, one of the famous cases we were taught was about James Somerset. Taken from Africa, probably in his early teens, Somerset, in 1749, was by the laws of Virginia made a chattel of his master, Charles Steuart. Twenty years later, Steuart took Somerset to England, where he continued to serve as a slave for two years until, in October ... (read more)