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Larry MacIntyre
University Communications

Last modified: Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Justice Michael Kirby to address IU Bloomington commencement

April 14, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Justice Michael Kirby, an acclaimed human-rights advocate who recently retired from the Australian High Court, will present the commencement address for the 180th IU Bloomington graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 9. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Michael Kirby

Michael Kirby

Kirby, until his retirement the longest-serving judge in Australia, is an expert on privacy law and international human-rights law. He has a longstanding relationship with Indiana University, having served as a member of the Kinsey Institute Board of Governors and as the George P. Smith Professor/Chair at the IU Maurer School of Law--Bloomington.

"Justice Kirby is world-renowned for the range and multitude of topics whose relationship to and implications for the law he has penetratingly and thoroughly addressed," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. "In many areas, such as biotechnology and bioethics, and privacy and technology, he is widely seen as a global leader.

"Throughout his career, Justice Kirby has demonstrated a thoughtful and analytical approach to the law, as well as great personal courage," McRobbie added. "He has also been a great friend to Indiana University. We are honored that he will be the commencement speaker for IU Bloomington."

Tom Martz, president and CEO of the IU Alumni Association, said: "On behalf of the nearly 520,000 living IU graduates, it is our honor to have such a distinguished person and advocate for human rights joining our ranks."

Kirby served as a justice of the Australian High Court, the nation's equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court, from 1996 until this year; as president of the New South Wales Court of Appeal from 1984-96; and as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia 1983-84. Prior to serving on the courts, he chaired the Australian Law Reform Commission and was deputy president of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

"Justice Kirby has been a champion of a broad and inclusive understanding of human rights, a rigorous approach to the impact of science and technology and a sensitivity to international dimensions of the law," said Lauren Robel, dean of the IU Maurer School of Law--Bloomington. "He has made outstanding contributions to the law, to international public service at the highest levels and to universities, including this university."

Known as Australia's "Great Dissenter," Kirby dissented on approximately one-third of High Court decisions between 1996 and 1999. He wrote in his book Through the World's Eye that his disagreement with the majority resulted from "attention to international law and, in particular, to universal human rights norms as touchstones for the expression and development of our own common law in Australia."

In the 1970s, Kirby chaired the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development panel that created OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data, a foundation for modern privacy and data security law in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

He served critical roles with UNESCO and the United Nations in such areas as bioethics, HIV/AIDS testing, prevention and treatment and international human rights. He holds undergraduate and law degrees from Sydney University and honorary degrees from universities in Australia, India and Northern Ireland.

Kirby was a Distinguished Citizen Fellow with the Institute for Advanced Study at IU Bloomington in 2004 and delivered the institute's Branigin Lecture in 2004 and 2006.

IU Bloomington commencement ceremonies will take place at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. May 9 at Assembly Hall. For information on Indiana University commencements, see