When he retired from the High Court of Australia on 2 February 2009, Michael Kirby was Australia’s longest serving judge.

He was first appointed in 1975 as a Deputy President of the Australian Conciliation & Arbitration Commission.  Soon after, he was seconded as inaugural Chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission (1975-84).  Later, he was appointed a judge of the Federal Court of Australia, President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal and, concurrently, the Court of Appeal of Solomon Islands.  His appointment to the High Court came in 1996 and he served thirteen years. In later years, he was Acting Chief Justice of Australia twice.

In addition to his judicial duties, Michael Kirby served on three university governing bodies being elected Chancellor of Macquarie University in Sydney (1984-93).  He also served on many national and international bodies.  Amongst the latter have been service as a member of the World Health Organisation’s Global Commission on AIDS (1988-92); President of the International Commission of Jurists, Geneva (1995-8); as UN Special Representative Human Rights in Cambodia (1993-6); a member of the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee (1995-2005); a member of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Judicial Reference Group (2007-) and a member of the UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights; since 2009 he has served as a member of the Human Rights Initiative (HRI) Council.  

Since his judicial retirement, Michael Kirby was elected President of the Institute of Arbitrators & Mediators Australia from 2009-2010. He also serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Laws of Australia.  He has been appointed Honorary Visiting Professor by twelve universities. And he participates regularly in many local and international conferences and meetings.  He has been awarded many honorary doctorates.

In 2010, he was awarded the Gruber Justice Prize.  He was also a member of the Eminent Persons Group (2010-11) which was investigating the future of the Commonwealth of Nations; and has been appointed to the UNDP Global Commission of HIV and the Law (2010-12). In 2010, he was appointed to the Arbitration Panel of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (World Bank).

In 2013 he was appointed a Commissioner of the UNAIDS Commission on Sustainable Health (2013-14).  Later in 2013 he was appointed by the President of the UN Human Rights Council pursuant to a resolution of the Council, to head the Commission of Inquiry on Alleged Human Rights Violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (2013-14).

In October 2014 at Tokyo, he was elected Vice-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association.  Also in October 2014 in New York, he received the Leo Nevas Award for human rights from the United Nations Foundation of United States of America. 

In 2015 he became a member of the Global Fund's High Level Panel,  Equitable Access Initiative to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. 

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