• Entry type: Person
  • Entry ID: AWE2184

Evatt, Elizabeth Andreas

(1933 – )
  • Born 11 November, 1933, Sydney New South Wales Australia
  • Occupation Barrister, Commissioner, Judge, Lawyer, Solicitor


Elizabeth Evatt was the first Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and the first woman to preside in an Australian Federal Court.

In August 2020, a specialist domestic violence resource was established and named in her honour. The Evatt List, operating in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia across selected registries, will identify high-risk cases, enabling them to be fast-tracked with appropriate security arrangements in place.


Elizabeth Evatt studied Law at the University of Sydney and at Harvard Law School. A Barrister-at-law at Inner Temple and the New South Wales Bar, her legal career began in England where she was a barrister and editor of the International and Comparative Law Quarterly. In 1968 she was invited to join Lord Scarman at the English Law Commission where she worked for five years.

Evatt was Deputy President of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission from 1973-76, before becoming the first Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia (1976-1988). From 1988-1993 she was president of the Australian Law Reform Commission, and Chancellor of the University of Newcastle from 1988-1994.

Between 1984-1992, Evatt was a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, serving as Chair of the Committee from 1989-1991. She was a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee from 1993-2000, and was a part time Commissioner of the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission from 1995-1998.

Evatt is currently a judge of the World Bank Administrative Tribunal; a Visiting Professor at the University of New South Wales; and Chair of the Board of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Sydney. She has for many years been a member of the Australian section of the International Commission of Jurists, and was elected as a Commissioner in April 2003. A niece of former Labor leader Dr H. V. Evatt, Elizabeth Evatt is a Life Member of the Evatt Foundation, and served as Vice-President from 1982-1987.



  • 2001 - 2001

    Inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women

  • 1995 - 1995
  • 2020 - 2020

    The Evatt List named in her honour, as a means of identifying and prioritising cases in Family Circuit Court Registries where family violence is a risk factor.

Published resources

  • Resource
  • Resource Section
  • Book Section
    • Recollections, Evatt, Elizabeth, 1987
  • Edited Book
    • A Guide to family law : questions and answers to help you make the right decisions, Evatt, Elizabeth, 1991
  • Report
    • Final report. Royal Commission on Human Relationships., Royal Commission on Human Relationships (Australia), 1977
    • National implementation : the cutting edge of international human rights law, Evatt, Elizabeth, 1999
    • Review of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984, Evatt, Elizabeth, 1996
    • Genital mutilation : a health and human rights issue, Magarey, Kirsty, 1990
  • Conference Proceedings
    • Royal Commission on Human Relationships: official transcript of proceedings, Royal Commission on Human Relationships (Australia), 1976
  • Conference Paper
    • The status of women in Asia, Evatt, Elizabeth, 1991
  • Lecture
    • Valuing women's work : women, equality and family law reform, Evatt, Elizabeth, 1991
  • Site Exhibition
  • Book
    • Born in hope : the early years of the Family Court of Australia, Swain, Shurlee, 2012

Archival resources

  • National Library of Australia, Oral History and Folklore Collection
    • Elizabeth Evatt interviewed by Daniel Connell in the Law in Australian society oral history project [sound recording]
    • Elizabeth Evatt address at the National Press Club on 24 September 1980 [sound recording]
  • National Archives of Australia, Sydney Office
    • Working papers of Justice Elizabeth Evatt, chronological series
    • Personal papers relating to family law matters, single number series
    • Records created by Justice Elizabeth Evatt as Chairman of the Royal Commission into Human Relationships, single number series
    • Files created by Justice Elizabeth Evatt as Chancellor of Newcastle University, single number series
    • Files created by Justice Elizabeth Evatt as President of the Australian Law Reform Commission, single number series
    • Personal correspondence files, single number series
    • Addresses given by Justice Elizabeth Evatt, single number series
  • National Archives of Australia, Melbourne Office
    • Files created by Justice Alastair Bothwick Nicholson as Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, single number series
  • National Library of Australia, Manuscript Collection
    • Papers of Craig McGregor, 1961-2005 [manuscript]
  • Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection
    • Pat Richardson scrapbooks relating to the Women's Electoral Lobby and women's events, 1977-2002

Related entries

  • Related Events
    • Revolution and Reform - 1975 and Beyond (1970 - )
  • Colleague
    • Maxwell, Josephine
  • Mentored by
    • Lusink, Margaret (Peg) (1922 - )
  • Associate
    • Whelan, Dominica (1954 - 2016)
  • Related Organisations
    • Family Law Council (1976 - )