ROBERT FRENCH was appointed Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia in September 2008, prior to which he was a member of the Federal Court. In the latter capacity he served as the first President of the Native Title Tribunal, and played a crucial role in determining its principles and procedures. As a part-time Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission from 2006 to 2008 he applied his insights to legal reform.
Before elevation to the Bench, Justice French made a substantial contribution to various branches of the law. He was Chairman of the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia and a member of that State’s Legal Aid Commission and Law Reform Commission. While serving as a Federal Judge, Justice French also served as the Chancellor of Edith Cowan University from 1991 to 1997 having served as Chairman of the Council of its precursor institution, the WA College of Advanced Education from 1988 to 1991.
Apart from service on a number of public bodies and his contribution to the development of Australian law at the Bar and on the Bench, Justice French has been an active and articulate author. He contributed chapters to books on native title edited by Richard Bartlett and Gary Myers in 1994, 1997 and 1999, and another on the Commercial Implications of Native Title edited by Bryan Horrigan and Simon Young in 1997. With Geoff Lindell and Cheryl Saunders he edited a book, Reflections on the Australian Constitution (2003). He has published a significant body of work in journals. In his frequent public addresses and participation in conferences and seminars he has consistently sought to bridge the study and practise of the law.
- Part-time Commissioner, Australian Law Reform Commission (2006-2008)
- Additional Judge, Supreme Court of the ACT (2004-2008)
- Foundation member, Australian Academy of Law (2007)
- Part-time, Non-resident Judge, Supreme Court of Fiji (2003-2008)
- President, Australian Association of Constitutional Law (2001-2005)
- President, National Native Title Tribunal (1994-1998)
- Council Member, Australian Institute of Judicial Administration (1992-1998)
- Chancellor, Edith Cowan University (formerly WA CAE) (1991-1997); Chairman (1988-1990)
- Judge, Federal Court of Australia (1986-2008)
- Member, Australian Law Reform Commission WA (1986)
- Chairman, Town Planning Appeals Tribunal WA (1986); Deputy Chairman (1983-1986)
- Member of Council, WA Bar Association (1983-1986)
- Member, Trade Practices Commission (1983-1986)
- Legal Aid Commission WA (1983-1986)
- Centenary Medal 2003
- Citizen of the Year (WA) 1998