Filmed during and after his time on the High Court of Australia, this documentary about Justice Michael Kirby explores the personal, moral and spiritual convictions of one of our most compassionate and incisive legal minds.
Kirby was Australia’s longest serving judge. Michael Kirby was listed by the Bulletin magazine as one of the top ten creative minds, then again in the top 100 of the most influential Australians of all time and Who Weekly put him as one of the top 25 of the most beautiful people – certainly a unique honour for a High Court Judge. But Michael Kirby is a unique man. In 36 years as a judge he repeatedly did the one thing that judges are not supposed to do – he spoke publicly on an enormous range of social, political, scientific, economic, religious and humanitarian issues. At different times Kirby’s independent position has alienated radicals, progressives and conservatives alike. Michael Kirby is a complicated man and difficult to characterize in simple terms. He has been described as a monarchist; too radical, too conservative; a parliamentary supremist, a populist; a nationalist, an internationalist; religious, a secularist; and a humanist. And although apparently contradictory he is all at once all these things. Michael Kirby reveals himself in this film through a long-form interview in a way he has never done before. Another contradiction for a man who has been so media friendly throughout his professional life is that, in many ways, he has been intensely private and guarded about his personal life. It was only at the age of 61 he publicly revealed for the first time that he had been in a homosexual relationship since 1969 with partner Johan van Vloten. This film represents the first time Johan has spoken publicly about their life together. This film shows the public face of Michael Kirby on the High Court, the private face at home with his father Donald, his late mother Jean, his partner Johan and his siblings. It also reveals his spiritual side and his lasting connection to Anglicanism.