Diane Fingleton

Interviewed by
Molly Mahlouzarides & Danielle Miller
Dec 22 2011
Diane Fingleton
Time Summary Keywords

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.

factions, unions

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.

prisons, privatisation

Diane Fingleton considers mandatory sentencing and its implications for judicial discretion. She reflects on the distortion of sentencing issues in the media.

Magistrates Court

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.

Magistrates Court

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.

Magistrates Court

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.

Chief Magistrate

Interview ends

Further reading: 

Di Fingleton, Nothing to do with justice: the Di Fingleton story, Sydney, 2010