DAME AUGUSTA WALLACE
Judge
1929-2008

New Zealand's first female District Court judge

Georgina Catriona Pamela Augusta Wallace was admitted to the bar in 1954 and practiced in Papatoetoe for 11 years before she was appointed as a judge.

When the news was announced, she told the Auckland Star that she expected people to think that, because she was a woman, she would be a soft judge.

I've spent a lot of time fostering, especially among young practitioners, a grim image, even a dragon image," she said at the time.

"In this profession, it can be helpful to look forbidding."

Dame Augusta sat as a judge for 18 years - almost 15 in the Auckland District Court and then the Ōtāhuhu District Court and Papakura District Court.

In 1990 she survived a machete attack in the Ōtāhuhu Youth Court, which led to a review of court security.

Three years later - the same year she was made a Dame - she retired from the bench, but not from public duty.

Dame Augusta served in various judicial capacities, including on the Waitangi Tribunal. She also chaired the Abortion Supervisory Committee.

After her death in April 2008, then-Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias said she had provided "a significant example for women in the legal profession", with her appointment to the bench being "an important affirmation of the contribution women could make to law".

"The fact that she discharged her responsibilities with complete professionalism was particularly important in the move to gain acceptance for women in legal practice and, following her lead, on the bench."

The New Zealand Law Society also paid tribute.

"Dame Augusta eschewed any feminist connotations of the appointment and had little time for the view that women lawyers suffered discrimination.

"If anything, she preferred to view her appointment not as a blow for women but as encouragement."