News: New High Court Robes

During Kiefel CJ’s ceremonial sitting to mark her investiture as Chief Justice (recorded here), it is noted that she had particular involvement with the design of the new High Court robes. She was also apparently pivotal in designing the Federal Court robes, and commissioned theatre designer Bill Haycock to design them. Haycock was subsequently also asked to redesign the High Court robes.

I confess to having a crafty streak, although I am no weaver – drawing, writing and knitting are more my cup of tea.

I was delighted by this blog post, by Kay Faulkner, the weaver responsible for the sleeves for the new High Court robes. Please do read it all in detail if you want to know about the process of creating the robes. The material is handwoven, and exquisite. The pattern of the sleeves were designed to resemble the ripples left by waves on sand. It is fascinating to look at the way in which the various parties worked together and created these beautiful robes. Delightfully, everyone took a turn at weaving the final thread on the fabric.

After reading this post, I watched the video of Kiefel CJ’s investiture with a different understanding of the care which had been taken to make those robes.

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About Katy Barnett

Katy Barnett is a Professor at Melbourne Law School. She has published extensively in the areas of private law and remedies, and is a co-author of ‘Remedies in Australian Private Law’ with Dr Sirko Harder. In 2016 she received the Barbara Falk Award for excellence in teaching.

7 thoughts on “News: New High Court Robes

  1. From USSC nominee Neil Gorsuch:

    Now as I judge I see too that donning a black robe means something—and not just that I can hide the coffee stains on my shirts. We wear robes—honest, unadorned, black polyester robes that we (yes) are expected to buy for ourselves at the local uniform supply store—as a reminder of what’s expected of us when we go about our business: what Burke called the “cold neutrality of an impartial judge.”

  2. It’s interesting (and befitting?) a theatre designer was chosen to design judicial robes. Another theatrical influence in this context comes from the US. Rehnquist CJ, a great fan of Gilbert and Sullivan, added four golden stripes to the sleeves of his robe after seeing a similar costume in a production of Iolanthe. His successor reverted to the all-black robe.

    • Ah, I wondered what happened to the four golden stripes! Now I know. Thanks for that interesting tidbit.

      In the speeches for Kiefel CJ’s inauguration, it was noted that her brother was an actor, and that she shared a sense of the theatric with him. In the speeches, the Attorney-General says that when she was first admitted, her brother apparently sent her a telegram which read: “Dear sister, welcome to the acting profession.” Her reply: “Thank you, dear brother, but we write our own lines.” Boom tish!

      • Apparently she dabbles in comedy in addition to the drama and tragedy of legal cases.
        The Americans do that as well. Blackmun J appeared in the film Amistad as another real life Justice, Joseph Story. Scalia and Ginsburg JJ appeared in a production of the opera Ariadne auf Naxos. In addition, there’s a Scalia/Ginsburg opera and a play about Scalia, The Originlist. I vaguely remember something about O’Connor J performing in a Shakespearean play once.

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