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Dame Roma Mitchell
, 1998

by Jessica Hromas

type C photograph (sheet: 50.7 cm x 40.6 cm, image: 49.3 cm x 33.0 cm)

The Hon. Dame Roma Mitchell AC DBE CVO (1913-2000) was a jurist, constitutionalist and state governor. Dux of St Aloysius’s Convent in both 1929 and 1930, she excelled in her law course at the University of Adelaide, where she helped to found the Women Law Students’ Society and won the David Murray Scholarship. She was admitted to the Bar in 1935 and practised as a barrister. In 1962 she became Australia's first female Queen's Counsel, and in 1965, on the recommendation of Don Dunstan, she was appointed Australia's first female Supreme Court judge. During the 1970s she chaired the Dunstan government's groundbreaking criminal law and penal methods reform committee, and was founding chair of the Australian Human Rights Commission from 1981 to 1986. In 1983 she became chancellor of the University of Adelaide, where she often taught family law; she was the first female chancellor of any Australian university. She became Australia's first female state governor when she became governor of South Australia at the age of 77; she retired at 82. Devoutly religious, she was renowned for integrity and was a much-loved public figure in South Australia. No other Australian woman was first to achieve so many official appointments, but she looked forward to a time when the appointment of a woman would not be noteworthy.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the Hammond Care Group 1999
Accession number: 2002.41