The Family Court recently farewelled Justice Graham Bell who served on the bench for the past 39 years. Justice Bell was appointed to the Family Court on 27 February 1976, shortly after the introduction of the Family Law Act. The following year, a referendum was passed setting a mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges, but it did not apply retrospectively and Justice Bell became one of Australia’s longest serving judges.
Justice Bell, a Queenslander, was born in Cairns and attended Churchie and the University of Queensland, being called to the bar in 1961 after serving as Associate to Justice Townley of the Queensland Supreme Court. After a successful career as a barrister, his Honour presided over many significant cases and witnessed many changes in the family law system over the years.
Recently his Honour spoke out about the waste of the vast knowledge and experience arising from the compulsory retirement of judges at 70, when they are still in robust health and have much to contribute to the law.
Family law practitioners who have appeared before Justice Bell speak highly of his skilful case management, before it became common practice in the courts, and his unfailing courtesy to practitioners and litigants.
His Honour is held in high regard by the legal community and we join the legal profession in wishing Justice Bell well in his retirement.