Diana Bryant AO
With over 45 years working as a lawyer, barrister and judicial officer, The Honourable Diana Bryant AO QC is highly-regarded, nationally and internationally, as an outstanding leader in the area of family law and for the advancement of women in the legal profession.
The Honourable Diana Bryant obtained her undergraduate degree in law at The University of Melbourne and was admitted to practice in 1970. She moved to Perth after her marriage and commenced her career as a family lawyer. She became a partner in a local firm as their first female partner, which later amalgamated into a national practice, Phillips Fox. The Honourable Diana Bryant was the first woman on a number of Boards during this time, including the Board of Royal Perth Hospital and TAA (later becoming Australian Airlines). She was a member of the Legal Aid Commission of Western Australia for a number of years and was appointed by the Federal Government as a member of the Child Support Committee to advise the government on the design of a national child support scheme, culminating in the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1987 and the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989.
The Honourable Diana Bryant and her husband relocated to Melbourne in 1990 and she joined the Victorian Bar, continuing to regularly take briefs in Perth. In Melbourne, she practiced at the Victorian Bar where she specialised in family law and de facto property disputes, particularly at the appellate level. She has been very active in promoting women in law and was involved in the establishment of the Women Lawyers Association of Western Australia and then the establishment of the Women Barristers’ Association at the Victorian Bar and later became the Patron of Australian Women Lawyers. While at the Victorian Bar, The Honourable Diana Bryant completed a Master of Laws at Monash University and was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1997.
In 1999, the government established a lower level federal court, the Federal Magistrates Court (later to change its name to the Federal Circuit Court) to hear less complex family law cases and with jurisdiction in an array of federal statutes in which the Federal Court had jurisdiction. The Honourable Diana Bryant was appointed to the position of inaugural Chief Federal Magistrate, and the Court commenced its operation in June 2000. The Court was flexible and hard working and quickly developed a reputation for its responsiveness as a cheaper, quicker and simpler court with a high work ethic and was popular with the profession and the public.
In 2004 The Honourable Diana Bryant was appointed as Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, a role she held until October 2017 upon reaching the constitution retirement age. There were many challenges in that period but her greatest success was ensuring publication of all first instance and appellate judgments by enabling them to be anonymised and given pseudonyms so they could be accessible to the profession and the public. During her tenure as Chief Justice, she was instrumental in the engagement between the Family Court of Australia and the Indonesian Supreme court and the Religious Courts of Indonesia on court reform and operations with a family law focus.
In 2013 The Honourable Diana Bryant was appointed by the Secretary-General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law to Chair a Working Group to develop a Guide to Good Practice on Article 13(1)(b) of the Hague Child Abduction Convention which was finally completed in 2020. For four years, she was a member of the Singapore Family Justice Courts International Advisory Group appointed by the Chief Justice of Singapore.
The Honourable Diana Bryant received a Centenary Medal in 2001 for services as an inaugural Chief Federal Magistrate and in the Australia Day 2012 Honours List, she was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for “distinguished service to the judiciary and to the law, particularly to family law policy reform and practice, through the establishment of the Federal Magistrates Court, and to the advancement of women in the legal profession”.