Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC today announced five new appointments to the Family Court of Australia.

The appointees are:

  • Mr David Berman SC, who will be appointed to the Adelaide Registry, with effect from 18 July 2013
  • Ms Sharon Johns, who will be appointed to the Melbourne Registry, with effect from 29 July 2013
  • Judge Garry Foster, a Judge of the Federal Circuit Court, who will be appointed to the Parramatta Registry, with effect from 8 August 2013
  • Judge Christine Thornton, a Judge of the County Court of Victoria, who will be appointed to the Melbourne Registry, with effect from 12 August 2013, and
  • Northern Territory Chief Magistrate Hilary Hannam, who will be appointed to the Parramatta Registry, with effect from 13 August 2013.

“All five appointees bring strong and diverse backgrounds in the law to the Court, and their skills and experience will help families resolve their disputes with a minimum of fuss and delay,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“I congratulate all of the appointees and look forward to the contribution they will make to the law in their new capacity.”

An advisory panel comprising the Hon Chief Justice Bryant AO of the Family Court, the Hon Sally Brown AM, a former Family Court Judge, Professor Fiona Wheeler, Associate Dean of ANU College of Law, and a senior representative of the Attorney-General’s Department, considered candidates for these appointments. The panel recommended all five appointees to the Attorney-General as suitable for appointment to the Family Court.

Short professional biographies for the appointees follow.

Mr David BERMAN SC

Mr Berman, 57, was admitted to the Supreme Court of South Australia and the High Court of Australia, as a barrister and solicitor, in 1980. Mr Berman graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Laws in 1977.

Mr Berman was a Partner in White Berman in 1981. Mr Berman practised as a solicitor for 14 years before going to the Bar in 1995. Since becoming a barrister, Mr Berman has practised exclusively in the area of family law and de facto relationships. Mr Berman was appointed Senior Counsel in 2010.

Mr Berman is currently a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, and the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Ms Sharon JOHNS

Ms Johns, 44, was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1992. Ms Johns graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws in 1988 and 1991 respectively.

Ms Johns practised as a solicitor at Barker Gosling from 1993 to 1998, becoming a senior associate at Barker Gosling from 1996 to 1998. Ms Johns has practised as a barrister for 15 years and worked exclusively in family law since 1993. Ms Johns has appeared in a number of significant family court matters.

Ms Johns is currently a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and of the Family Law Bar Association of the Victorian Bar. She is a regular presenter at academic and professional conferences.

Judge Garry Foster

Judge Foster, 61, was admitted as a solicitor to the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1974. Judge Foster graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Laws in 1974.

Judge Foster practised as a solicitor for 27 years including 10 years as an accredited specialist solicitor in family law. He was called to the NSW Bar in 2001. Judge Foster has worked almost exclusively in family law.

Judge Foster was appointed as a Federal Magistrate in 2011. He initially sat in the Newcastle registry, hearing mainly parenting issues, including relocation and child abuse cases. From late 2011, Judge Foster moved to the Sydney and Wollongong registries of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

As part of his circuit work to that region, Judge Foster delivers regular legal education presentations to the local legal profession. He has been an active member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia. For many years he has been a regular presenter of continuing legal education to the profession and is one of the teaching faculty of the Australian Advocacy Institute.

Judge Foster is currently the chair of the Aboriginal and Indigenous Outreach Committee of the Federal Circuit Court in Wollongong and a member of that court’s National Indigenous Access to Justice Committee. Judge Foster is the Federal Circuit Court’s nominated board member to the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators and active in the promotion of mediation and alternative dispute resolution within the court process.

Judge Christine Thornton

Judge Thornton, 57, was admitted to the Supreme Court of Victoria as a barrister and solicitor in 1979. Judge Thornton graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws in 1976 and 1978, respectively.

Judge Thornton was articled to Martin Bartfeld and Associates, Victoria from 1978 to 1979, and was a duty lawyer with the Australian Legal Aid Office for one year. From 1981 to 1988 she was the section head of the Children’s Court and Duty Lawyer at the Prahran Magistrates’ Court, Melbourne and suburban Children’s' Courts with the Legal Aid Commission of Victoria. She was seconded to the Attorney-General's Department Victoria for 18 months to work on the legislative program.

In 1988 Judge Thornton was appointed as a Magistrate of the Magistrates' Court of Victoria and in 2001 she was appointed Senior Magistrate, Regional Coordinating Magistrate Frankston. She was elected as a member of the Executive Committee of the Council of Magistrates in 2001.  In 2008 Judge Thornton was appointed to the County Court of Victoria.

Judge Thornton is currently a member of the Executive Committee of the County Court Council of Judges.

Chief Magistrate Hilary HANNAM

Chief Magistrate Hannam, 53, was admitted to the Supreme Court of New South Wales as a solicitor in 1985. Chief Magistrate Hannam graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) in 1982 and 1984 respectively.

Chief Magistrate Hannam practised as a solicitor for a year with Allen Allen and Hemsley in 1985. From 1986 to 1998 she took up a position with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. From 1998 to 2000 she worked as a consultant solicitor with Ebsworth & Ebsworth Solicitors.

Chief Magistrate Hannam’s judicial career began with her appointment as a Magistrate of the Local Court of New South Wales in 2000, a position she held for 10 years. She also served as Presiding Magistrate of the Youth Drug and Alcohol Court (2007-2010) and Children’s Magistrate at the Children’s Court of New South Wales (2007-2010). Ms Hannam was appointed as Chief Magistrate of the Northern Territory of Australia in 2010.

Chief Magistrate Hannam is currently a board member of Menzies School of Health Research, the Northern Territory Law Reform Committee, the South Pacific Council of Youth and Children’s Courts and the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration.

 

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