Margaret Jean Nyland AM is an Australian lawyer, who was a judge of the District Court of South Australia from 1987 until 1993 when she was appointed to the Supreme Court of South Australia. Nyland retired in 2012.[1]

Margaret Nyland

Judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia
In office
15 October 1993 – 16 November 2012
Personal details
BornNovember 1942 (age 77)
EducationGilles Street Primary School
Adelaide Girls High School
University of Adelaide
OccupationJudge, lawyer

Early life and educationEdit

Nyland was born in 1942. Her mother was an egg wiper, later becoming a tent, sail and flag maker. Her father, John Johnson (Jack) Nyland was a boilermaker then taxi driver, later becoming the State Secretary of the Transport Workers Union (SA).[2] Nyland went to Gilles Street Primary School and the Adelaide Girls High School. Nyland had determined her choice of career at a young age, writing "lawyer" on each occasion the school asked to list her intended occupation.[1] Nyland received a Commonwealth Scholarship which enabled her to study law at the University of Adelaide,[2] where one of her lecturers was Roma Mitchell. Nyland graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 1965 and was one of three women admitted as legal practitioners in 1965.[3]


To be admitted as a solicitor, Nyland required both a law degree and a period as an articled clerk and she had difficulty finding someone to take her, eventually being taken on by Pam Cleland. Nyland later entered into a law partnership with Cleland, before going into partnership with David Haines QC in the firm Nyland, Haines & Co which specialised in family law. Nyland was the Chair of the Commonwealth Social Security Appeals Tribunal from 1975 until 1987, Chair of the South Australian Sex Discrimination Board from 1985 until 1987 and then Deputy Chair of the Equal Opportunity Tribunal (SA). In 1987 Nyland became only the second woman to be appointed to the District Court.[3]

After her retirement from the Supreme Court, Nyland was appointed in August 2014 to conduct the Child Protection Systems Royal Commission, to investigate the adequacy of the child protection system in South Australia.[4]

Supreme Court of South AustraliaEdit

In 1993 Nyland was elevated to the Supreme Court. South Australia was the first commonwealth jurisdiction to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court when Roma Mitchell was appointed in 1965. Mitchell retired as Dame Roma in 1983, and it took a further ten years before the second woman, Nyland, was appointed to the Supreme Court.[3]

Nyland was the judge in a number of high profile criminal trials, including that of Michelle Burgess and Kevin Matthews for the murder of Carolyn Matthews,[5] Mark Errin Rust for the murders of Maya Jakic and Megumi Suzuki,[6][7] and sentencing a teenager for the murder of Pirjo Kemppainen.[8]

By 2005, two more women had been appointed to the Supreme Court, Ann Vanstone and Robyn Layton. Together they formed the first all female Court of Criminal Appeal in South Australia.[3][9]

Nyland retired from the Supreme Court in November 2012 as a result of reaching the statutory retirement age of 70.[1]


Nyland was made a Member of the Order of Australia "For service to the judiciary, to human rights and the equal status of women, and to the community through a range of cultural organisations" on 26 January 2005.[10]


  1. ^ a b c "Retirement of the Supreme Court Justice Margaret Jean Nyland AM speech" (PDF). Attorney-General's Department. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 February 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Oral histories interview: Honourable Margaret Nyland AM". Law Society of South Australia. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d "The Honourable Margaet Nyland AM". Australian Women Lawyers. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  4. ^ "Child Protection Systems Royal Commission". Attorney General's Department (SA). Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  5. ^ "Adelaide lovers get record sentence for murder". ABC News. 2 April 2004. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  6. ^ Fewster, Sean (1 May 2004). "Inside The Sick Mind Of A Double Murderer". Adelaide Advertiser. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  7. ^ "SA double-murderer denies aggression". 9news. 16 January 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Teenager jailed for retired nurse's savage murder". ABC News. 16 February 2012. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  9. ^ Akerman, T (2 August 2013). "Judges, lawyers and graduates call for more women on the Supreme and District Court benches". The Advertiser. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  10. ^ "NYLAND, Margaret Jean". It's an Honour. Retrieved 27 November 2017.