Alumni in Focus – the Honourable Justice Melissa Perry

Honourable Justice Melissa Perry

From the fluro-lit corrals of the subterranean Adelaide Law School library to the light-filled and airy courtrooms of the Federal Court of Australia, mine has been a journey which I am proud both began and continues with the Adelaide Law School. As the alma-mater also of my late father, the Hon. John Perry AO QC, the University of Adelaide has long been a shaping influence on my life and career.

My early tuition in constitutional law by the then “rising star”, James Crawford, laid the foundations for my public law career and developed in me a passion for public international law and respect for the rule of law. While I was blessed by outstanding teachers throughout my studies, I am especially grateful to Professor John Keeler who, as my honours supervisor, gently guided me in the manner of a true teacher to find the answers within myself.

Upon graduating, I left Adelaide to undertake a Master of Law at the University of Cambridge at a college in the heart of the town of elegant spires and ancient quadrangles. I remained in Cambridge to complete a PhD on State Succession and boundaries which was awarded the Yorke Prize. In writing on State Succession I had hoped to continue in a small way the tradition of the late Professor D P O’Connell whose PhD from Cambridge University in State Succession marked the start of a truly extraordinary career in international law, as did Professor Crawford’s PhD from Oxford on the creation of States.

Both D P O’Connell and Professor Crawford were later to teach at Adelaide Law School before accepting the Chichele and Whewell Professorial Chairs at Oxford and Cambridge respectively.

I returned to Adelaide in 1992 to join Bar Chambers and changed roles for a time from student to tutor at the Law School. In 2004, I was appointed Queen’s Counsel before moving to the Bar in Sydney. Whilst at the Bar, I was fortunate to have worked with and mentored many talented young people and to contribute to the profession through membership of various bodies, including the RAAF Legal Specialist Reserves in which I remain a Squadron Leader. After 21 years of practice at the Bar, I now serve on the other side of the Bench as a Justice of the Federal Court of Australia.

My postgraduate studies and my career as a practitioner have been grounded in the high quality of education afforded to me by the Adelaide Law School and the encouragement and support of the Faculty. I am delighted to continue my membership of the Law School’s Advisory Board and hope that there will be other opportunities to participate in the vibrant intellectual life of the University.


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