The Honourable Jane Mathews , AO, was an inspirational trail blazer for women Judges. Her contribution to the law, the judiciary, women, the arts and education was not just extraordinary but was a long history of firsts.
In Australia she was the first NSW female Crown Prosecutor, the first female Judge appointed to any court in NSW, initially to the NSW District Court in then to the NSW Supreme Court in 1987. Thereafter she was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in 2001 and became President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Her journey to these firsts as a female judge was also courageous, being admitted to the NSW Bar in 1969, not the first woman barrister in NSW, but one of very few, cementing her ongoing position as leading role model for women lawyers and Judges. All of this led to her being recognised by the Australian Government in 2005 when she was made an officer of the Order of Australia for ‘service to the judiciary, to the legal profession, to the University of NSW, and to music’.
For us here, her most significant role was as one of the founders of the IAWJ, answering Arlene Pacht’s call in 1991. She was the founder of the Australian Association of Women Judges in 1992, served as its President for two periods between 2000 to 2006 and was the International President of the IAWJ from 2004-2006, hosting the very successful Biennial Conference in Sydney in 2006. The AAWJ conferred Life Membership on Jane in May 2019, only 3 months before her passing on 30 August 2019.
Jane also made considerable contributions to jurisprudence in her many ground-breaking judgments as senior Judicial Member of the NSW Equal Opportunity Tribunal.
She was extremely generous with her time as Patron of the NSW Women Lawyers’ Association and outside her judicial role, she was adored within the Arts community, especially the musical community, as a patron and donor to many musical organisations in Australia, especially to Opera Australia, and a devotee and regular presence at operas around the world, especially at her beloved Ring Cycle.
The IAWJ lost a great supporter, mentor and friend when we lost Jane Mathews.