The IAWJ community is mourning the recent loss of Jane Mathews, who was a trailblazer, a remarkable person, a loyal friend, and extraordinary judge. The Honorable Jane Mathews, AO passed away on August 31, 2019.
In recognition of Jane's outstanding contributions to the legal community in Australia and around the world, the Australian Association of Women Judges (AAWJ) presented a Life Membership Award to Jane on 11 May, 2019. It was the first life membership ever awarded by the AAWJ. The AAWJ wanted to share with IAWJ members all of the reasons why they conferred this honor on Justice Mathews, so we can all remember her amazing contributions to the global judicial community.
Jane was one of a group of international women judges, along with Arline Pacht, who met and founded the IAWJ in 1991. She served as the President of the IAWJ from 2004-2006. Also, she founded the AAWJ in 1992 and served as its President for many years. In both of these roles, Jane oversaw a very successful and fondly remembered IAWJ Biennial Conference in Sydney in 2006. Jane's history as a pioneer for women in the legal profession generally, and particularly for women judicial officers, is legendary. She was the first female Crown Prosecutor in the State of New South Wales. Furthermore, she was the first woman appointed as a judge in that State when she was appointed to the District Court of NSW in 1980. In that role, she also sat as the first Senior Judicial Member of the NSW Equal Opportunity Tribunal, which implemented a new Anti-Discrimination Law and created innovative human rights law in the process. She was then the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1987 where she served with distinction.
In 1994, she went to the Federal Court of Australia and subsequently served as president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Deputy-President of the Native Title Tribunal, where she made a significant contribution on indigenous issues. Jane retired from the Federal Court in April 2001, however, she returned to sit as an Acting Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW until her final retirement in 2017. Outside her judicial role, Jane is much loved within the arts community in Australia. She made enormous contributions to the arts, especially to music. She was a well-loved and regarded patron and friend of Opera Australia, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Opera and other musical organizations in Australia. Also, she generously donated her time as patron of the NSW Women Lawyer's Association. For all of these reasons, the AAWJ, along with the entire IAWJ, celebrates Justice Mathews' life and her exemplary work.