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It has been more than 100 years since women were able to practise law and stand for parliament in NSW. To mark the milestone, a painting of Australia’s first female High Court Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC is now on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

The portrait of the Chief Justice, by artist Yvonne East and sponsored by law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, was a 2018 Archibald Prize finalist. 

Chief Justice Kiefel was the first woman to be appointed Queen’s Counsel in Queensland in 1987 and the first woman to be appointed as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia in 2017.

The portrait of the Chief Justice was commissioned by the First 100 Years project, an initiative in affiliation with the Law Society of NSW and the Women Lawyers Association of NSW to celebrate women working in law and their achievements. 

Chief Justice Kiefel is the Patron of the First 100 Years project in Australia. 

“My hope was to capture the commanding and graceful presence of the Chief Justice. Her incredible intellect is represented by the books behind her,” said artist Yvonne East.

“There are 100 books; one for each of the 100 years being commemorated. The spines of the books are blank to represent the anonymity of the many women who worked tirelessly to achieve their goals. This portrait represents the strength and honour of women in powerful positions, combined with femininity and order.”  

Juliana Warner, Managing Partner of sponsoring law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, said: “I am delighted by the addition of the portrait of the Chief Justice to the National Portrait Gallery. By celebrating and marking the milestones of how far we have come in the last 100 years, we recognise the women pioneers in our profession and provide opportunities for young women in law to be inspired by their stories.”