ALRC expresses deep gratitude to Justice Michael Kirby for service to law reform

Marking the resignation of Justice Michael Kirby, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) President, Professor David Weisbrot, today expressed his admiration and gratitude to the former High Court Judge for his outstanding dedication to law reform in Australia.

Professor Weisbrot said Justice Kirby has definitive views on law reform and in  Kirby’s own words said ‘reform’ does not simply mean change; ‘reform’ must mean change for the better’.

“The establishment of the Australian Law Reform Commission in 1975 with Justice Michael Kirby at its first Chairman steered law reform from a conventional mandate to a liberal egalitarian realm—encouraging comprehensive consultation with a broad-range of stakeholders for all inquiries,” Prof Weisbrot said.

“The ALRC under Kirby took a broader (and bolder) approach and almost certainly the most important and enduring contribution of Kirby and the ALRC to law reform was the strong emphasis on widespread public involvement in the policy-making process.  Other bodies—such as law reform agencies, royal commissions, government departments and ad hoc inquiries—had long been in the habit of calling for submissions—however, under Michael Kirby the ALRC went well beyond this passive approach, entrenching the active engagement of the community as part and parcel of its basic approach to law reform, under the rallying cry that ‘law reform is too important to be left to the experts’. 

 “Many other reports produced during (or after, but as a result of) Michael Kirby’s tenure at the ALRC—including those on admiralty, evidence, recognition of Aboriginal customary laws, sentencing, privacy, and insolvency—gained recognition as definitive texts in their area—often the definitive text—and have proved to be of enduring value as scholarly treatises. 

“By the time Kirby left the ALRC in 1984, the Commission had completed 14 substantive reports, of which eight already had been ‘substantially adopted’ by the Government, while four others were ‘the subject of government commitments’. 

“The ALRC still carries Kirby’s intellectual DNA deep within its institutional core, ethos and processes and the strong emphasis on pursuing evidence-based reform remains to this day.

“Justice Kirby has laid the foundations for the ALRC and we acknowledge and thank him for his outstanding contribution to law reform in this country.”