Former Liverpool Girls student’s supreme legal career

On International Women's Day we meet a public school alumna who has reached the pinnacle of her career.

A woman in front of a hall of high school students A woman in front of a hall of high school students
Image: Legal standing: Judge Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson meets students at her former school.

Liverpool Girls High alumna Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson believes her public education makes her a better judge of people.

Ms Loukas-Karlsson was dux of the school in 1978 and has gone on to become an award-winning solicitor/barrister and judge - in Australia and as counsel before the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague from 2003-2006.

In 2018, she was appointed as a resident Justice of the ACT Supreme Court, a role she continues to the present day.

“To be a good judge, you need to have a good IQ and EQ [emotional intelligence] and you need to understand people from many different walks of life,” Ms Loukas-Karlsson said.

“[Public education] gave me a broader exposure to people and that, I hope, makes me a better judge.”

Ms Loukas-Karlsson returned to her former school yesterday to talk to Year 11 and 12 girls and also Year 10 Liverpool Boys High students doing legal studies.

She was at Liverpool Girls High School in Year 11 and 12 even though she had secured a place at the selective St George Girls High School, and she has no regrets.

“I had some truly great teachers [at Liverpool Girls] in Maths, English and Ancient History,” Ms Loukas-Karlsson said. “Teachers that were so committed to their craft and they made a great impression on me.

“I’m a great believer in public education and I often have conversations about this to my colleague [Former High Court Justice] Michael Kirby who is also passionate advocate for public education.” Justice Kirby is an alumnus of Fort Street High School.

Ms Loukas-Karlsson’s interest in law was fostered at Liverpool Girls High.

“I was always interested in law. I remember studying The Merchant of Venice and [the play’s hero] Portia was a great role model,” Ms Loukas-Karlsson said. In the Shakesperean play, Portia impersonates a lawyer in order to free Antonio, another key character, from his contract.

“I have always had a keen sense of what is right and wrong and what’s fair and unfair and that fuelled my interest in human rights.”

As for her talk to Liverpool students, Ms Loukas-Karlsson said she “took them through her legal career” then gave them five pieces of life advice.

Those nuggets were:

  1. Back yourself by working hard and remember that everyone experiences insecurity.
  2. A sense of humour helps you through the hard times.
  3. Get out of your comfort zone; citing her own example of leaving her law work in NSW to take up the job at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague.
  4. Failure is essential to success.
  5. Be the best version of you so you can take your place in positions of influence in our society.

On the last piece of advice, Ms Loukas-Karlsson said the community needed to have more people from places like Liverpool in positions of power.

“A society that has a narrow cohort of people who are making decisions may lead to narrow decision-making,” she said.

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