District Court judge Christopher O'Brien is thankful to the hard work and sacrifices of his parents, the education he received from the Marist Brothers and the support of his family for his accomplishments in the law.
Judge O'Brien was appointed a member (AM) of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours for "significant service to the law, and to the judiciary".
The life-long Sutherland Shire resident grew up in Como, attended Marist Brothers colleges at Penshurst and Kogarah and studied law at the University of Sydney.
He worked part-time as a barman at St George Leagues club to support his studies.
From 1983 until 2007, Judge O'Brien worked as a solicitor in Sutherland Shire, starting at Robbert J Fox and Associates in Jannali and then starting his own practice.
He is a life member and former committee member and president of the St George / Sutherland Regional Law Society.
In 2007, he was appointed a magistrate, and served as deputy chief magistrate from 2014 until he became a judge in 2018.
Attorney-General Mark Speakman said at the swearing-in ceremony Judge O'Brien's "working class upbringing, watching your father work two jobs and your mother working hard raising [your sister] Louise and you, while juggling several jobs herself in sandwich and cake shops, established and embedded the strong work ethic for which you are known".
Mr Speakman said, as a solicitor, Judge O'Brien had "his finger on the pulse of the real world and an insight to the human condition".
He had carried this into his role as a magistrate, where colleagues had described him as "the epitome of what a judicial officer should be - calm but firm when required and with an innate sense of fairness and balance".
Judge O'Brien said he was humbled to receive the honour.
He said his late parents Tom and Margaret "worked tremendously hard and made enormous sacrifices" for their children.
"They provided us with an outstanding education and a loving and nurturing environment," he said. "We had demonstrated to us daily the value of hard work, perseverance and fun."
Judge O'Brien said the Marist Brothers, despite recent "real difficulties", had given him "an education that was well rounded and focused on social justice and equity".
Judge O'Brien and his wife Jacki, together with their daughters Brooke and Samantha, suffered an enormous tragedy seven years ago with the sudden death of their son and brother Cameron.
Cameron, 21, who was in the fourth year of a Commerce / Law degree at the University of Wollongong and had the world at his feet, died in his sleep from Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP).
"Following two relatively minor seizures Cameron was diagnosed with epilepsy in August, 2011," Judge O'Brien said.
"Thereafter, he diligently and carefully managed his condition, but on July 10, 2012, he went to bed as usual and did not wake up."
Judge O'Brien said SUDEP was not unlike Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) but the condition was barely known of and significant medical research was required.
"We miss Cameron every single minute of every single day but his loss is even more acute at times like this," he said.