Susan Purdon-Sully of Chermside Ward in Brisbane, Australia, has been appointed to the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia by the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock. Hers is the highest legal position obtained by a member of the Church in Australia.
"It is with great pleasure that I announce Ms. Purdon-Sully's appointment," said Mr. Ruddock in making the appointment. "Ms. Purdon-Sully brings to her new position considerable experience in, and knowledge of, family law and dispute resolution. I look forward to the further valuable contribution to the law I am sure she will make in her new capacity as a Federal Magistrate."
The Federal Magistrates Court of Australia is an independent federal court under the Australian Constitution. Established in 2000, approximately 80 percent of the court's workload is in the area of family law, although its jurisdiction also includes bankruptcy, consumer protection and trades practices, privacy and industrial law. More than half of all migration matters are also now heard in this court. The court shares its jurisdiction with the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Court of Australia.
As a judge, Sister Sully will be based in Brisbane and will determine predominantly family law cases.
Prior to her appointment to the court, she was a partner in a Brisbane law firm practicing in family law and alternative dispute resolution processes. For nearly 20 years she has been at the forefront of the ADR movement in Australia.
In 1995 she was the first Australian female lawyer to be appointed a Fellow of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, at the invitation of the academy. A past president of the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland, she has served on numerous committees of the Queensland Law Society and a number of government boards. She is a member of the board of trustees of the Queensland Art Gallery and, until her appointment to the court, she also served on the Legal Practice Tribunal of Queensland, the legal profession's disciplinary body. In 2004 the federal attorney general appointed Sister Sully to the Family Law Council of Australia; a statutory authority that advises and makes recommendations to the Attorney-General on matters relating to family law. Council members are appointed by the Attorney-General in consultation with the prime minister and cabinet for a three-year term.
At the Ceremonial Sittings of the Court on Oct. 17, 2007, to welcome Sister Sully, the attorney general and representatives of the bar and solicitor's branches of the profession paid tribute to her contribution to the profession and the community, including her pioneering work in assisting separated families resolve their disputes through less adversarial means.
Sister Sully serves as a Laurel adviser in the Young Women program in her ward.