The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG. Photo by Marcus Mok, courtesy of Marcus Mok and Michael Kirby.

Writer Watch

The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG

‘The struggle for civilisation is never finished. When I was aged nine, I received a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It profoundly influenced my thinking and its influence endures.

However, new insights arise. Globalism has meant that we now share these insights with our fellow humans everywhere on the internet, in social networks and global media...

Everyone has similar experiences. These are just mine.’

Michael Kirby, A Private Life




As a judge, jurist, academic and national treasure, the Honourable Michael Kirby became (and remains) one of Australia’s most admired people – a voice of reason, wit and incisive thinking in a world obsessed with spin and obfuscation (otherwise known as people lying in their teeth).

He has spoken out passionately about issues that are important to him, such as justice and human rights, and even those who have disagreed with him were moved by his courage in coming out as a high-profile gay man, something which resulted in the most vicious, unwarranted and outrageous attacks on his character.

Michael Kirby was the youngest judge ever appointed to the bench at just 35 years of age. When he retired from the High Court of Australia in February 2009, he also became Australia’s longest serving judge. Michael was instrumental in the creation of the law reform commission, has been the recipient of 20 honorary doctorates (count them) and in 2010 was awarded the Gruber Prize for Justice.

Michael’s many fans were delighted when he turned author and penned his memoir A Private Life: Fragments, memories, friends, which the Sydney Morning Herald described as ‘...a reflective, generous and eloquent book.’ In these reminiscences we are introduced to the private Michael Kirby, speaking directly to us in his own voice without any intermediary, opening up about his early life, religious beliefs, about being gay and his forty-three-year relationship with Johan van Vloten.

On his website at Michael Kirby's official website you can find Michael Kirby’s articles, speeches and multimedia, including website links and radio interviews.


‘Discrimination against, or disrespect for, women, prisoners, migrants and others arose in the study of the law affecting the outcomes of many cases in which I participated in the High Court. I would be less than honest if I did not acknowledge that my own experience, as a homosexual man, made me very sensitive to discrimination. If you have tasted irrational discrimination, you do not like it. And you do not want others needlessly to be on the receiving end...

'The chapter [in A Private Life] on my partner, Johan van Vloten, gives an insight into his intelligence and grace that have illuminated my life since we met on 11 February 1969. Anyone who would deny another human being such blessings is trapped in unkind or unthinking formalism. Whether one is gay or straight, discovering a life’s companion is something that most hearts yearn for. It is good for one’s mental and spiritual health. Other citizens who would deny full equality in legal rights (including on relationship recognition) need to examine the question: by what rational entitlement do they presume to do so?’

Michael Kirby, A Private Life


Out now - December 2013! Book cover photo courtesy of Penguin Books Australia.