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Dame Roma Mitchell

Dame Roma Flinders Mitchell ACDBECVOQC (2 October 1913 – 5 March 2000)[1] was an Australian lawyer, judge and state governor. Mitchell was the first woman judge in Australia, a Queen's Counsel, a chancellor of an Australian university and the Governor of an Australian state.

Dame Roma Mitchell was considered to be a pioneer of the Australian women's rights movement. Her grandfather, Samuel James Mitchell, was the first Chief Justice of the Northern Territory.

Early life and education

Roma Mitchell was born in Adelaide in 1913, the second daughter and youngest child of Harold and Maude Mitchell (née Wickham). She was an alumna of St Aloysius Convent College, Adelaide and the University of Adelaide.

Mitchell was admitted as a barrister in 1935. In 1962 she was appointed a Queen's Counsel, the first Australian woman to be so. As well as a practicing barrister, Mitchell was a lecturer in Family law at the University of Adelaide and Margaret Nyland was one of her students, with Mitchell becoming a mentor to Nyland. Mitchell 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 although Justices Elizabeth Evatt and Mary Gaudron had been appointed to federal courts by the Whitlam Government. It was not until 1993 that the second woman was appointed to the court, Mitchell's former student Margaret Nyland.

She was Governor of South Australia from 1991 to 1996, the first female Governor in Australia. Mitchell also served as the first female Chancellor of the University of Adelaide (and first woman to be a chancellor of any Australian university) from 1983 to 1990 and was a member of the Council for the Order of Australia from 1981 to 1990.



Statue of Mitchell on North Terrace, Adelaide

Roma Mitchell was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) on 12 June 1971. She was raised to Dame Commander (DBE) on 12 June 1982.

On 26 January 1991, Dame Roma was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), Australia's highest civilian honour, for services to the law, to learning, and to the community.

She was made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) on 1 January 2000. Dame Roma received her honour directly from The Queen of Australia in a private investiture.