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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Portrait of Dame Roma Mitchell

1940s
Geoffrey Mainwaring

pastel on paper (frame: 73.5 cm x 60.0 cm depth 2.5 cm, sheet: 55.5 cm x 41.5 cm)
Image not available (NC)

The Hon. Dame Roma Mitchell AC DBE CVO QC (1913–2000) was the first Australian woman to be a Queen's Counsel, Supreme Court judge, Acting Chief Justice, Deputy University Chancellor, Chancellor and State Governor. After graduating in law at the University of Adelaide, Mitchell was admitted to the Bar in 1935 and practised as a barrister. In 1962 she became Queen's Counsel, and in 1965, was appointed a Supreme Court judge. During the 1970s she chaired the Dunstan government's groundbreaking criminal law and penal methods reform committee. She was also Vice President of the Law Council and founding chair of the 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 appointed Governor of South Australia at the age of 77. In 1998, at the age of 84, she was an active participant in the Constitutional Convention. 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.

While most images of Roma Mitchell show her as the extraordinary person she became with age, this pastel portrait by her friend Geoffrey Mainwaring is a striking representation of her in her youth, full of promise and determination.

Gift of friends of Dame Roma Mitchell 2018

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Geoffrey Mainwaring (age 28 in 1940)

The Hon. Dame Roma Mitchell AC DBE CVO QC (age 27 in 1940)

Donated by

Piers Plumridge (1 portrait)

Related portraits

1. Dame Roma Mitchell, 1998. All Jessica Hromas.

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Radical Restraint 
Justice Michael Kirby
Radical Restraint 
Justice Michael Kirby
Radical Restraint 
Justice Michael Kirby
Radical Restraint 
Justice Michael Kirby

Judicial portraits

Magazine article by Leslie Moran, 2007

Leslie Moran investigates the portraits of judges in the National Portrait Gallery's collection.

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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency