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  • Australian Women Lawyers as Active Citizens

Wolfe, Patricia (Patsy)

Her Honour, AO

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Barrister, Chief Judge, Commissioner, Judge, Lawyer and Solicitor
Alternative Names
  • Wolfe, Patsy (preferred name)


Her Honour Patricia (Patsy) Wolfe served as Chief Judge of the District Court of Queensland between 1999 and 2014. She was the first woman to be appointed to the role. In 2014 she received the Order of Australia for her 'distinguished service to the judiciary, to the law through legal education reform and as a mentor and role model for women'.

Patsy Wolfe came to law as a mature age student and mother, after first pursuing careers in medicine and journalism. She graduated LLB with honours from the University of Queensland in 1978 and was admitted to the Bar the same year. In 1979, she joined the Faculty of Law as a senior tutor and then went on to complete a Masters Degree in 1983. While senior tutor, she met Margaret White and Quentin Bryce and formed supportive and enduring friendships with them both.

Before being appointed to the District Court in 1995, Wolfe served as Deputy Commissioner of the Fitzgerald Inquiry Into Official Corruption (1988-89) and as a part-time Commissioner on the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (1993-95).

She is well remembered for her forthright comments made when she was chair of the Queensland Women's Consultative Committee in 1992. When challenged as to why Queensland women needed such a committee, when there was no equivalent body for men, her response was direct and uncompromising. Men already had a powerful organisation, she said. 'It's called Cabinet, where men outnumber women sixteen to two…That's why we need council as a direct line to the Premier.'



Bachelor of Arts, University of Queensland
Admitted as a Barrister of the Supreme Court of Queensland
Bachelor of Laws (Honours), University of Queensland
1978 - 1980
Senior Tutor, University of Queensland Law School
1981 - 1982
In-house, Feez Ruthning Solicitors
Master of Laws, University of ueensland
1983 - 1995
Practised at the Bar in Queensland
1986 - 1999
Member, Council of Stuartholme School
1988 - 1989
Deputy Commissioner, Commission of Inquiry into Official Corruption
1989 - 2003
Member, Council of Griffith University
Chair, Review into Land Policy and Administration
1991 - 1997
Member, Visiting Committee Griffith University Law School
1992 - 1994
Chair, Queensland Women's Consultative Council
1992 - 1997
Members, National Institute Law Ethics and Public Affairs
1993 - 1995
Part-time Commissioner, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
1995 - 2014
Judge, District Court of Queensland
1999 - 2002
Member, Key Centre Ethics Law Justice and Governance
1999 - 2014
Judge, Planning and Environment Court
1999 - 2014
Chief Judge, District Court of Queensland
Hon DUniv (Griffith)
Centenary Medal
Officer of the Order of Australia

Sources used to compile this entry: Gregory, Helen, 'Patricia Wolfe', in Susan Purdon and Aladin Rahemtula (eds), A Woman's Place: 100 Years of Queensland Women Lawyers, Supreme Court of Queensland Library, Brisbane, 2005; (9 August 2016).

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