Rachael Wallbank

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Human rights advocate and Lawyer

Rachael Wallbank is an Accredited Specialist (Family Law LSNSW) and principal of the legal practice Wallbanks Legal.

Wallbank represented and appeared on behalf of 'Kevin' and 'Jennifer' at trial in Re Kevin: Validity of Marriage of Transsexual (2001) 28 Fam LR 158 and on appeal in The Attorney-General for the Commonwealth & "Kevin and Jennifer" & Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission [2003] FamCA 94 whereby the Applicants' marriage was declared to be valid and the law of Australia was determined so that Australians who experience diversity or difference in sexual formation, including Transsexualism, gained the right to legally marry in their affirmed sex.

Wallbank also acted and appeared for the Applicant Parents in Re Bernadette [2010] FamCA 94; the first case in Australia to authorise Phase 1 Treatment to suspend puberty for an adolescent living with the condition of Transsexualism (as an interim order in 2005) and the first case to challenge the Australian legal regime initiated by Re Alex (2004) FLC 93-175 which requires court authorisation of Phase 1 and 2 Treatments as a precondition to treatment.

Wallbank is a member of the Legal Issues Committee of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) and a founding member of the Australian and New Zealand Professional Association for Transgender Health (ANZPATH).

Wallbank writes academically, undertakes lectures and presentations on the subject of the legal and human rights of people who experience diversity or difference in sexual formation and gender expression and appears regularly in the media as a public advocate and legal expert on the subject.

The following additional information was provided by Rachael Wallbank and is reproduced with permission in its entirety.

Born on 4 March 1956, as Richard Wallbank, Rachael attended St Patrick's College Strathfield in Sydney and the University of New South Wales. Rachael was admitted to practice as a solicitor on 4 July 1980.

Rachael began her legal career working as a student clerk and junior solicitor under the generous tutelage of John Newnham at Messrs Fred A. and John F. Newnham of Sydney. Rachael was eventually promoted to Associate at that practice.

Rachael established her own legal practice, Wallbanks Legal, on 1 July 1985. Wallbanks Legal is a specialist practice concerned with Family, Wills, Estates and Succession Law.

As is typical for those who experience the condition of Transsexualism, Rachael was aware of her female self in childhood. In the circumstances of the times, however, the condition remained unrecognised, unexplained and untreated until adulthood. Rachael's adolescence and young adulthood were extremely confusing, painful, filled with shame-filled explorations and secretive expression of her innate female self.

Through a period of much suffering for herself and her family, especially her children and her then wife, Rachael publicly affirmed her female sex on 4 July 1994, subsequently undertook sex affirmation procedures, including genital surgery, and had her Legal Sex reassigned to female on 17 July 1997.

Rachael deeply appreciates that her family were all obliged to share in the social and personal suffering associated with her difference and her public affirmation of her innate female self and that without the love and support of many people, and especially her children, this entry would not exist.

Rachael is grateful that her life and legal career have presented her with the opportunity to achieve significant legal and human rights reform for people of all ages who experience Transsexualism and to advance the understanding of that phenomena as a naturally occurring form of difference or diversity in human sexual formation and an intersexual disorder of sexual development with a clearly therapeutic and successful medical treatment protocol - and not a mental disorder or a psychological phenomenon.

Re Kevin has been relied upon in several landmark international decisions; including I v The United Kingdom and Christine Goodwin v The United Kingdom decided by the European Court of Human Rights. These decisions, which quote Justice Chisholm's decision in Re Kevin at length and with approval, finally determined that there had been violations of articles 8, 12, 13 and 14 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in respect of the legal status of people who experienced Transsexualism in the United Kingdom and, in particular, such people's treatment in the spheres of employment, social security, pensions and marriage. As a result of these decisions the government of the United Kingdom introduced the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

Re Kevin has also relied upon in the United States of America. In the landmark decision of Justice O'Brien in the Florida case called The Marriage of Kantaras, his Honour said at page 673 '…it is essential that Kevin not be given a mere "citation" but studied for what it represents in the law. It is one of the most important cases on Transsexualism to come on the scene of foreign jurisprudence.'

Rachael continues to advocate for the abandonment of the requirement imposed by the Family Court of Australia for court authorisation of time critical therapeutic hormonal treatment for Australian adolescents who experience Transsexualism; with all the unnecessary suffering that inevitably results from non-treatment or delayed treatment.

Rachael continues to advocate for a better cultural understanding and acceptance of difference and the recognition of the human and legal rights of people living with the condition of Transsexualism in Australia and throughout the world.

Rachael enjoyed her 21st birthday as an affirmed female in 2015. Rachael is honoured to be recognised amongst the wonderful Australian women lawyers in this exhibition and grateful to finally be one of those fortunate people who do not fear if the family parrot falls into the hands of the town gossip.

Significant academic works by Rachael Wallbank:

  • Wallbank, Rachael, 'Re Alex - Through a Looking Glass', Australian Children's Rights News, May 2004
  • Wallbank, Rachael, 'Re Kevin in Perspective', Deakin Law Review, vol. 22, 2004, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/DeakinLawRw/2004/22.html
  • Wallbank, Rachael, 'Australia', in Scherpe, Jens M. (ed.), The Legal Status of Transsexual and Transgender Persons, Intersentia, United Kingdom, 2015, pp. 457-526

Significant presentations by Rachael Wallbank:

  • A Critique of Re Jamie and the Role of the Family Court in Determining the Access to Medical Treatment of Young Australians Living With Transsexualism for the 30th QLD Family Law Residential 2015.
  • The inaugural (2013) Isabelle Lake Memorial Lecture for the Equal Opportunity Commission Western Australia and The University of Western Australia
  • 'Medico/Legal Issues in the Treatment of Young People With Transsexualism", XVIII World Congress of the World Association of Sexual Health (WAS) - 1st World Congress For Sexual Health (April 2007) Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia.
  • 'Human Rights and Diversity in Sexual Formation and Expression', XXIII ILGA World Conference (March 2006) Geneva, Switzerland.
  • 'Children with Transsexualism - From Difference to Disorder', The Fourth World Congress on Family Law and Children's Rights (2005), Cape Town, South Africa.
  • 'Difference on Trial' presentation and paper, 11th National Biennial Conference of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia 2004, Conference Handbook (2004) TEN, GPO Box 61A Melbourne, VIC, 3000, Australia'

Significant media appearances by Rachael Wallbank:

  • ABC Australian Story 'Marriage Matters' 31/03/2003;
  • ABC 4 Corners 'The Gender Puzzle' 25/07/2005;
  • SBS Insight 'The Female Brain' 13/03/2007; and
  • Channel 7 Sunday Night 'Girls will be Girls' 11/2009.

Sources used to compile this entry: Joseph, Sue, Speaking Secrets: Sex and sexuality as public property, alto Books, Buderim, 2013; Information provided by Rachael Wallbank August 2015 and November 2016.

Prepared by Rachael Wallbank