The first woman to become a High Court judge in New Zealand

Dame Silvia Cartwright was the 18th Governor-General of New Zealand, serving from 2001 to 2006.

She followed Sir Michael Hardie-Boys into the role and was the second woman to hold the position, following Dame Catherine Tizard.

Cartwright was born and raised in Dunedin and attended Otago University where she graduated with a law degree in 1967.

In 1989 she became the first female Chief District Court Judge and in 1993 she added to her accolades by being the first woman to be appointed to the High Court as a judge.


Cartwright is also well known for the part she played in a 1988 inquiry into cervical cancer in New Zealand.

She presided over the inquiry - which became known as the Cartwright Inquiry - into issues related to the disease and its treatment at Auckland's National Women's Hospital.

Cartwright was also a member of the United Nations committee monitoring compliance with the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

In 1989 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, followed by Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001.

She received the Queen's Service Order in 2006.

Cartwright completed her tenure as Governor-General in August 2006.

She then moved to a role as a trial judge on the United Nations Tribunal investigating war crimes in Cambodia.

Dame Silvia is married to Peter Cartwright, CNZM, QSO.


The couple received their Queen's Honours on the same day.

"Dame Silvia and Peter have worked extraordinarily hard and brought integrity, energy, and stamina to the task," said then-Prime Minister Helen Clark at the time.

"They also generously agreed to serve for an additional 4 months in office. On behalf of all New Zealanders, I thank Dame Silvia and Peter Cartwright for their service."