Who is she?
Dame Roma Mitchell was the first Australian woman to be a judge, a Queen’s Counsel, a chancellor of an Australian university and the Governor of an Australian state.
Roma was made a Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia in 1965. She was still the only female judge in South Australia when she retired 18 years later in 1983.
She was the Governor of SA from 1991 to 1996, the first female Governor in Australia. Mitchell also served as Chancellor of the University of Adelaide from 1983 to 1990.
As an Adelaide lawyer in 1962, she was the Australian representative at a United Nations seminar on the Status of Women in Family Law. As a QC she advocated for equal pay for equal work and throughout her career she campaigned for the right of women to serve on juries. In 1962, she successfully led a campaign by the League of Women Voters to lobby for women to serve on juries.
Roma had strong feminist views on issues such as women’s access to paid work, part-time work for men and women and the need for housework to be shared between men and women.
Why should we thank her?
For being a strong advocate for women in the legal system and in society in general. It’s incredible to believe that there was a time (only relatively recently too) when women weren’t allowed to sit on juries, but Roma fought for women to be allowed that right.
“Better opportunities for women do not mean they should relax. Results of past discrimination are going to take a long time to reverse.”