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Michael Hargreaves Whitten

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Michael Whitten, QC FCIArb NMAS LLB BCom (born 22 September 1964) is an Australian jurist currently presiding as the Lord Chief Justice[1][2] in the Kingdom of Tonga (2019 ongoing).

The Right Honourable

Michael Hargreaves Whitten
LCJW Court of Appeal.jpg
Lord Chief Justice Whitten presides over the Court of Appeal, Nuku'alofa, Tonga. September 2019
16th Lord Chief Justice of Tonga
Assumed office
2 September 2019
Appointed byKing Tupou VI
Preceded byOwen Paulsen[3]
Personal details
Born (1964-09-22) September 22, 1964 (age 57)
Spouse(s)Catherine Whitten
Alma materUniversity of Queensland

Early Life[edit]

Michael Whitten was born in 1964 to Kevin Whitten, a boiler-maker and union representative for the sugar mills in North Queensland and Sandra Whitten, a local butcher. He grew up in Mackay QLD, attending St Joseph’s Primary School and then St Patrick’s Christian Brothers College.

Whitten graduated as a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Queensland in 1985 and 1987 respectively.

Career at the Bar[edit]

Michael Whitten worked for two years in the Public Defenders’ Office in criminal defence, and for one year as Associate to Judge Jack Kimmins, in the District Court, QLD. He signed the Roll of Counsel as a Barrister, in 1990. Initially practising in Criminal, Injury and Family Law in Queensland, Whitten moved to Victoria in 1995. He read with Judge Josh Wilson, and signed the Victorian Bar Roll a year later. In Victoria, Whitten specialised in commercial litigation, specifically in building & construction law, major infrastructure cases, energy disputes and class actions.

Practicing from Chancery Chambers in Melbourne under List G Barristers, Whitten made silk in 2015.

Whitten has appeared in all jurisdictions throughout most of Australia, and in both domestic and international arbitrations. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and an accredited Mediator Standards Board National Mediator Accreditation System (NMAS) Mediator.

Whitten was a founding member of Melbourne TEC Chambers,[4] a virtual chambers dedicated to promoting its members in the construction law field for international arbitrations in the Asia-Pacific region,[citation needed] and was its Chair between 2016 and 2019 when he accepted his first judicial appointment.[5]

Whitten was also actively involved in a number of different areas of development and change within the Victorian Bar Association:

  • Alternate Dispute Resolution Committee;
  • Pro Bono Scheme;
  • Health and Wellbeing Committee;
  • Equal Opportunity Committee;
  • Green (Sustainability) Committee; and
  • International Commercial Arbitration Committee, taking part in a delegation to Guangdong, Southern China in 2013, meeting with numerous[vague] professional and Government representative bodies, exploring mutual opportunities for the international delivery of legal services in the region.

Whitten, whose mentor John Patrick "Jack" Kimmins J had a profound effect on his professional life, is a strong advocate for mentoring. He has supported one mentee each year he practiced at the Victorian Bar, drawn from both the University of Melbourne and Monash University Law Schools, and has actively participated in judging their respective annual moots.

Whitten is a co-author of the 4th, 5th and 6th editions of Brooking on Building Contracts.[6]

Whitten was recognised by Doyle's Guide as a Leading Arbitration Barrister in Australia in 2017 and 2018 and Leading Construction and Infrastructure Counsel in 2017, 2018 and 2019, and in and Best Lawyers in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Judicial Appointment[edit]

On 2 July 2019 Whitten's appointment as the 16th Lord Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Tonga, Lord President of the Appeal Court of Tonga and Lord President of the Land Court of Tonga was officially approved by King Tupou VI of Tonga.

Whitten was instrumental in Tonga acceding, on the 12th June 2020, to the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (known as the 'New York Convention') as set out by the United Nations Commission On International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). Tonga became the 164th state party to accede to the Convention, and the 6th nation state in the Pacific after the Marshall Islands, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Palau.[7] An Arbitration Legislation Bill was subsequently enacted in February 2021, in Tonga, in relation to its obligations under the Convention.[8]

In 2020, Whitten, with the Judicial Appointments and Disciplinary Panel, was proud to appoint Tonga's first woman to the judiciary.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Sensei Whitten achieved his Shodan Black Belt in Kyokushin Karate, in a 50-man Kumite in 1989 (aged 25) and has competed internationally.

He is married to Catherine Whitten[10] and has eight children and one grandchild.


  1. "LORD CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE KINGDOM OF TONGA". Victorian Bar Association. 30 July 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2021. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  2. "Congratulations to Michael Whitten QC on his appointment as the Lord Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Tonga". List G Barristers. 10 July 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2021. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  3. https://www.nbr.co.nz/story/tonga-s-chief-justice-takes-new-zealand-job
  4. Gibbs, Kate; Reporter (2013-03-04). "Melbourne barristers face litigation threats". Retrieved 2021-06-08.
  5. "Lord Chief Justice Michael Whitten – MTECC". Retrieved 2021-06-08.
  6. Damien Cremean ; Michael Whitten (author) ; Michael Sharkey (author) (2019). Brooking on Building Contracts 6th edition (6th ed.). Chatswood, NSW. ISBN 978-0-409-34878-1. OCLC 1124852389.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  7. "Tonga accedes to Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards". United Nations Secretariat.
  8. "Tonga: International Arbitration Act 2020" (PDF). Office of the Attorney General, Tonga. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  9. "FIRST FEMALE APPOINTED ACTING JUSTICE IN THE SUPREME COURT". Tonga Broadcasting Commission. 17 August 2020. Retrieved 24 February 2021. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  10. "Aussies homeless as two-storey waves smash island". 13 April 2020.

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