Diane Fingleton recalls growing up in a working class family in inner Brisbane, including her education at local Roman Catholic schools such as St Stephen's Cathedral School and All Hallows. She discusses her decision to take up secretarial work.
Diane Fingleton reflects upon the influence of her father in shaping her political sympathies and later involvement with the Labor Party. She considers the changing role of unions and factions in the political process and her own experience of forming a socialist-left faction within the Kurilpa branch of the Labor Party.
Diane Fingleton discusses her participation in street protests during her time at university in the early 1980s. She explains the reform movement within the Labor Party and the ambition of her socialist-left faction to bring socially progressive policies to the party, which she hoped would include affirmative action for women. She also notes her moves away from the Labor Party.
|Anne Warner, Sue Yarrow, women|
Diane Fingleton details her time working on Bill Hayden's ministerial staff in the 1970s, studying part-time, and the excitement of the Whitlam era.
|Bill Hayden, Gough Whitlam, ministerial staff, Whitlam Government 1972-75|
Diane Fingleton describes the disappointment of Whitlam's dismissal. She discusses her involvement in the republican movement by co-founding the group Citizens for Democracy and acknowledges the lasting friendships she formed through her political experiences, particularly with Bill Hayden.
|Anne Warner, Bill Hayden, Gough Whitlam, republic|
Diane Fingleton contrasts her experiences of Queensland with those of her travels abroad, referring particularly to the conservatism of the Bjelke-Petersen era.
|Bjelke-Petersen Government 1968-87, regions|
Diane Fingleton discusses her lack of interest in student politics during her time at university, preferring involvement with the Labor Party and women's rights initiatives, including forming the Women's Law Society.
|Anne Warner, student unionism, women|
Diane Fingleton explains her decision to study law, stemming from her firm social justice values and her continuing discontent with Whitlam's dismissal. She recalls her early legal career working with community legal agencies, such as Legal Aid, the Caxton Legal Centre and Women's Legal Service.
|legal aid, Wayne Goss|
Diane Fingleton discusses her time working in government departments, including Attorney-General Dean Wells' office and later in the Women's Policy Unit.
|Anna Bligh, Attorney General, Cath Rafferty, Dean Wells, Women's Policy Unit|
Diane Fingleton discusses her decision to never run for office despite an active political life. She explains the reasons why she later accepted the role of magistrate during her legal career.
|Bill Hayden, Gough Whitlam, Matt Foley|
Diane Fingleton comments on the lack of formal training that existed during her time of transition from advocate to magistrate. She explains the resistance she faced in the courts system because she had not risen to her position through the clerks system, and also due to her gender.
|Magistrates Court, Matt Foley, sexual discrimination|
Diane Fingleton describes the resistance to her rise to the position of Deputy Chief Magistrate within the judiciary, and subsequently her appointment as Chief Magistrate. She discusses the controversy that followed her apology ceremony to Indigenous people in the Magistrates Court.
|Chief Magistrate, Indigenous issues, Matt Foley|
Diane Fingleton explains the development of the Murri Courts and the significance of the courts in overcoming past injustices faced by Indigenous people. She also discusses the emergence of the Drug Courts.
|Indigenous issues, Murri Courts|
Diane Fingleton comments on her ideological opposition to prison privatisation and reflects on her own experiences of imprisonment.
Diane Fingleton considers mandatory sentencing and its implications for judicial discretion. She reflects on the distortion of sentencing issues in the media.
Diane Fingleton discusses the conservatism she encountered in the Magistrates Court and the opposition she faced on the basis of her gender and beliefs.
|Magistrates Court, women|
Diane Fingleton explains the reforms she implemented regarding the existing magistrates transfer scheme during her time as Chief Magistrate and the problems that persisted within the system.
Diane Fingleton details the various disputes that unfolded between herself and other magistrates while she was Chief Magistrate, including the matter that ultimately saw her convicted and imprisoned for a criminal offence.
|Crime and Misconduct Commission|
Diane Fingleton explains the High Court of Australia's unanimous decision for her acquittal, based on an immunity from prosecution.
Diane Fingleton discusses the financial compensation she received from the Beattie Government following her acquittal and her reinstatement to the bench at the Caloundra Magistrates Court. She mentions the impacts that her wrongful conviction has had upon her husband's career as well as her own.
|Magistrates Court, Rod Welford|
Diane Fingleton states that prison did not change the way in which she sentenced defendants. She describes the vindication she felt in returning to the bench and having her professional reputation restored.
Diane Fingleton discusses her concerns with police move-on powers and the inevitable impacts that the legislation has had on Indigenous people.
|Beattie Government 1998-2007, Indigenous issues|
Diane Fingleton describes the improvement of police culture and professional practices since the Fitzgerald Inquiry. She also discusses police culture and its relationship with the magistrates court.
|Fitzgerald Inquiry, Magistrates Court, Police|
Diane Fingleton discusses the challenges she initially faced in reconciling her Catholicism and the push for abortion reforms during the Whitlam era. She explains the current state of abortion law in Queensland and the lack of consistent political direction on the issue.
|abortion, Anna Bligh, Catholics, religion|
Diane Fingleton details her current volunteer work, supporting pregnant teenage girls through education programs and childcare facilities.
Diane Fingleton expresses her regret that she never pursued teaching as a profession and wishes that, as Chief Magistrate, she had embarked on her reforms with more caution.
Diane Fingleton nominates the proudest moment of her career as her appointment to Chief Magistrate and lists her greatest achievements as the reforms she introduced while in that role.
Di Fingleton, Nothing to do with justice: the Di Fingleton story, Sydney, 2010
Diane Fingleton served as Chief Magistrate of the Queensland Magistrates Court from 1999-2003, though her time in the position was surrounded by controversy. Her career spans a range of legal and policy-related roles and she discusses the workings of politics and justice in Queensland.
Born 11 January 1947, Di Fingleton was raised in inner Brisbane and attended local Roman Catholic schools there, including St Stephen’s Cathedral School and All Hallows’ School.
Influenced by her working class background and her father’s union ties, Fingleton took up work in Federal Labor politician Bill Hayden’s office during the Whitlam era. Consequently she became politically active within the Labor Party’s Kurilpa branch and was closely involved in establishing a socialist-left faction there as part of the party’s reform movement.
In the late 1970s Fingleton studied law at the University of Queensland. Upon graduation she was drawn towards legal work with strong social justice motives, working with community legal clinics such as the Caxton Legal Centre and Legal Aid. She also worked in policy-related roles within the Queensland Government, acting as Principal Private Secretary to Attorney-General Dean Wells and as a Senior Policy Officer in the Women’s Policy Unit.
In 1995, Fingleton was appointed to the Queensland Magistrates Court and, four years later in 1999, she was promoted to Chief Magistrate, making her the first woman appointed to that position in Queensland. During her time in the magistracy, Fingleton oversaw many significant developments, notably the introduction of specialist courts including the Murri Court, the hosting of Indigenous apology ceremonies and attempted reforms to the compulsory transfer scheme.
While serving on the bench, Fingleton was investigated by the Crime and Misconduct Commission in regards to a dispute concerning the transfer of a magistrate. She was convicted and imprisoned, though she was exonerated by the High Court in 2004. She was reinstated at the Caloundra Magistrates Court where she worked until retirement in 2010. The same year she published her account of these years in Nothing to do with justice: the Di Fingleton story, Sydney, 2010.
Copyright © Centre for the Government of Queensland, the University of Queensland, 2012.
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