The Final Days of Alastair Nicholson: Chief Justice Family Court of Australia
William John Stapleton
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Refusing to hide, Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia Alastair Nicholson, scheduled to appear before an inquiry into family law and child support, entered Australia's Parliament House in Canberra via the front door on the 10th October 2003.
As Chief Justice of one of the most unpopular courts in the country, Nicholson had become a key figure fuelling discontent with Australia's political, bureaucratic and judicial wings of government. With millions of Australians having gone through the shredder of the country's divorce regime, he had become a focus for community discontent.
So heightened had the debate around Nicholson become that politicians rightly feared the general public were losing faith in the country's governance.
Nicholson was arguably the single most outspoken, certainly the most controversial judge ever to serve in the Australian court system; deeply hated by some, admired by others. Politicians from both sides of politics had reason to fear his ever ready tongue.
The appearance before the Inquiry of the one man who had done more to shape the nature of Australian family law than any other individual had been looked forward to by his critics with a kind of wonder and anticipation, a fascination for the grotesque.
Despite a plethora of Inquiries, including a devastating critique from the government's chief adviser on legal matters the Australian Law Reform Commission, doubt was not a trait Nicholson ever displayed in public.
Was this the inquiry which would finally nail him to the wall?
To the chagrin of his critics, Nicholson showed not a sliver of regret or self-doubt. He has continued to be outspoken since his retirement from the bench and move into academic life.