Australia has a long way to go in protecting the rights of women, Aborigines, migrants and homosexuals, High Court judge Michael Kirby said yesterday.
Justice Kirby was at the University of NSW last night to accept an honorary Doctorate of Laws for his ''eminent service to the community''.
He told graduates from the university's law faculty it was up to the next generation of lawyers to continue to uphold and improve the justice system.
"At your coming in, you must scrupulously maintain that tradition," Justice Kirby said. "You must strengthen it and safeguard it, for without law there is tyranny."
Justice Kirby, who must retire from the High Court in March when he turns 70, is tipped to leave the Bench at the end of the year.
Perhaps alluding to the reforms, which he has lobbied for, Justice Kirby said there was still inequality for women and minority groups "The position of gays has got better in my lifetime; but the oppression and ignorance are not yet over," he said.
"Inequality and discrimination have not yet stopped.
"Wrongs and injustices still occur in the law to this day, including even for me, an office-holder under the nation's Constitution. So it is work in progress; no room for complacency."
He warned graduates, "We cannot afford to be starry-eyed about our profession".
"You know that sometimes, with the aid of good lawyering, judges can strengthen the law with justice.
"But you also know many cases where this has proved impossible. And some where the outcomes sometimes seemed unnecessarily unjust. You know that access to justice is too expensive. Despite law reform reports, parliaments often neglect the demonstrated need for reform."
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