Michael Kirby was, until 2 February 2009, one of the seven Justices of Australia’s highest constitutional and appellate court, the High Court of Australia. He served there from his appointment on 6 February 1996. At the end of that service he was Australia’s longest serving judicial officer having been:
- A deputy president of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission 1975-1983;
- Inaugural chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission 1975-1984;
- A judge of the Federal Court of Australia 1983-1984;
- President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal 1984-1996;
- President of the Court of Appeal of Solomon Islands 1995-1996;
- A justice of the High Court of Australia 1996-2009.
In addition to these posts, Michael Kirby has served in many international and United Nations positions including two expert groups of the OECD, Paris, many bodies of the Commonwealth Secretariat, London and positions in the ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNODC, WHO Global Commission on AIDS, and UNAIDS. He was President of the International Commission of Jurists 1995-1998 and served as Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for Human Rights in Cambodia 1993-1996. He has been a member of the governing body of three Australian universities, ultimately being elected as Chancellor of Macquarie University in Sydney 1984-1993. He holds honorary degrees of Doctor of Letters, Doctor of Laws and Doctor of the University from twelve Australian and foreign universities and various other appointments.
In June 2010 Michael Kirby became the first Australian to win the prestigious Gruber Justice Prize.