Former Federal Court judge Justice Jane Mathews is a proud Australian.
But one thing she’s not proud of is the way we deal with refugee issues.
Speaking in Wollongong this week she recalled how she had been involved in many interesting cases involving refugee claims.
That made her aware of the plight of many asylum seekers.
“Some of them had endured absolutely horrific events in their home countries,” she said.
“So much so they were seriously traumatised. I am afraid we have gone seriously backwards in this country these days in the way we deal with refugee issues. I don’t know where we are going to go. In some ways it makes me ashamed to be an Aussie in this otherwise wonderful country.”
But Justice Mathews is very proud of Wollongong.
And she is proud of her family’s involvement in the steelworks and RMB Lawyers which is celebrating its 130th birthday.
Her great grandfather Charles Russell established RMB Lawyers, previously known as Russell, McLelland & Brown, in 1885.
Grandfather James Russell joined the firm in 1900 and uncles Harry and Alec McLelland were also partners.
Justice Mathews father was Frank Mathews.
He was the chief engineer of Port Kembla Steelworks during the development phase of the plant six decades ago.
He also played a leading role in the establishment of the Wollongong University College (now the University of Wollongong).
This week Justice Mathews is celebrating another important milestone by delivering The Illawarra Connection’s annual Hargrave Lecture on the centenary of Lawrence Hargrave’s death.
Hargrave is credited with groundbreaking work on wing design that led to the first flight.
And Justice Mathews is recognised as a role model who pioneered senior roles for women in the judiciary.
After graduating from the University of Sydney she was admitted as a solicitor in 1963.
In 1969 became one of only nine female barristers in the state and the only one specialising in criminal law and defamation.
In 1978 she was the first female crown prosecutor in NSW, in 1980 became the first female judge of the NSW District Court, in 1987 the first female judge of the NSW Supreme Court and in 1994 was appointed to the Federal Court. She’s been president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, deputy president of the Native Title Tribunal, law reform commissioner, NSW Equal Opportunity Tribunal senior judicial member and is an acting judge of the NSW Supreme Court.