Michael Kirby


Bicentennial Medal (2019)
Honorary Degree (2009)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington, Indiana
Presenter: Michael A. McRobbie


Michael 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.

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.

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.