Barbara Holborow. An inspirational story

Posted by Eduardo Posadas on

Barbara Holborow. An inspirational story

Some heroes don’t wear capes and this week we want to honoured and extraordinary aussie human being, Barbara Holborow. On a personal note, Barbara’s work and philosophy on life has been very influential and inspiring to many of us here.

 On Australia Day 2012 Barbara received a Medal of The Order of Australia and the NSW Senior Australian of the Year Award, for her ongoing services to the community, her work for the rights and welfare of children and her work as a magistrate.

Barbara graduated from her law degree at the age of 40, having worked and studied as a single mother to achieve this outcome. 

Her work as a magistrate has been invaluable, she played a huge role in setting up free legal aid for children in NSW, a ‘care court’ to deal specifically with cases of neglect, and a jail for first time offenders aged 18-25. Her vision for a better future also included allowing television cameras into her court, with the aim of making legal processes more widely understood and transparent, in order to help reform the system. 

Her philosophy that ‘every child is everybody’s responsibility’ communicates an important message for strengthening community, that we hope people will remember and try to adopt in their own approach to life (Australian of the Year Awards 2012, 2011). 

Barbara resigned from the bench in 1994,  she said the following of her resignation, while also showing her willingness to stand up for what she believed was right: 

“I didn’t retire, I resigned in anger. I wanted them (the public) to know why I was resigning. I was having to make a decision where I was returning kids to the establishments that brought them before the courts in the first place because I had no place of safety to put them. It was wrong. And yes, it was the government’s fault.”(C.A. Seaniger, 2012).

Barbara suggested that an underlying cause of higher juvenile crime rates in Australia is drug use and broken homes. She also advocated the approach of looking at a person in a wider perspective and considering the background that they come from, in order to find some explanation for violent and criminal actions.


“Nowadays the offences are more severe and more common and that comes down to drugs. Forty years ago we weren’t dealing with drugs.” (Barbara Holborow cited by C.A. Seaniger, 2012). 

In an interview with C.A. Seaniger, Barbara had this to say about dealing with young people who have committed a crime:


“If a young person commits a very serious crime then, yes, they should go to jail but for others we need to give them a chance to keep their name, give them a bond, and if they break that, look at what’s happening at home, school, who they are mixing with. Quite often all of this violence comes out of the home.”


Barbara was not an advocate of incarceration as a solution to juvenile crime, “Locking a kid up doesn’t solve anything. We really need to make detention the last card in the pack,’’ (Cited by C.A. Seaniger, 2012). 

Since her retirement she continued to work and campaign for a better future for children in Australia. At the age of 81 Barbara had written 3 books on her experiences, raised 8 foster children, as well as her son Jacob, an Aboriginal boy who she adopted from a Women’s refuge. 

“I loved my work, and it was my absolute dream to be a children’s magistrate.” (B. Holborow, ABC, 2012). 

We need more of these stories nowadays and we all are inspired by people, which is your inspirational story? Tell us your story and we are going to pick the bests ones and start publishing them.

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