New Zealand Law Society - Conference will celebrate Dame Sian’s achievements

Conference will celebrate Dame Sian’s achievements

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Sian Elias
Dame Sian Elias

“Sian Elias is being appointed [Chief Justice] because of her outstanding legal ability, her empathy with the community in all its diversity and the leadership and foresight she will bring to this role.

“At the age of 50, she is in the vanguard of a new generation of leaders in the New Zealand judiciary. She is a modern judge with a strong sense of the challenges New Zealand will face in the future.”

The 24 March 1999 statement by then Prime Minister Jenny Shipley holds true two decades later. There have been major changes in society, politically and in the justice system during Dame Sian’s tenure as Chief Justice, but she has remained a highly visible and strong leader. It’s worth quoting another part of Mrs Shipley’s statement:

“Perhaps the most outstanding contribution Sian Elias has made to New Zealand law is her advocacy on behalf of Māori before the courts and the Waitangi Tribunal. That took vision, courage and commitment. The respect she has built among Māori as a result of that work is of lasting importance to us all.”

Dame Sian’s retirement in early 2019 will be marked by a conference in Auckland at which distinguished international and New Zealand speakers will explore tradition and direction in the law.

The two-day conference will run from 31 January to 1 February and will be held at the Fisher & Paykel Auditorium, University of Auckland. It will close with a special dinner at the Auckland Museum on Friday, 1 February.

The conference is being hosted by the Legal Research Foundation, with the support of the New Zealand Law Foundation. It will be chaired by Law Foundation Chair Dr Andrew Butler.

The Legal Research Foundation says the conference is the principal opportunity for the New Zealand legal profession to acknowledge the Chief Justice upon her retirement.

The line-up of international speakers includes:

  • Justice Rosalie Abella (Supreme Court of Canada),
  • Professor Stuart Banner (Norman Abrams Professor of Law, University of California),
  • Justice Manuel José Cepeda Espinosa (President of the International Association of Constitutional Law, and former Justice and President of the Constitutional Court of Colombia),
  • Justice Susan Kiefel AC (Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia),
  • Sir Anthony Mason AC KBE (former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia),
  • Justice Kate O’Regan (Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, Faculty of Law, Oxford University, and formerly of the Constitutional Court of South Africa),
  • Laureate Professor Emeritus Cheryl Saunders (Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne),
  • Professor Jeremy Waldron (School of Law, New York University),
  • Professor Christina Voigt (University of Oslo).

New Zealand speakers include:

  • Professor Richard Boast QC (Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington),
  • Sir Kenneth Keith QC (retired Judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand),
  • Professor Janet McLean (Faculty of Law, University of Auckland),
  • Professor Paul Rishworth QC (Crown Law Office),
  • Professor Peter Watts QC (Barrister, Bankside Chambers).

Further details about the conference programme will be available shortly. Pre-registration information is available at or

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