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The Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History

The Society aims to bring together scholars, lawyers and the general public interested in Legal History. It sponsors lectures, competitions, research projects and a variety of seminars and discussion groups. Sir Francis Forbes was the first Chief Justice of New South Wales and worked hard to establish the legal framework for the new colony. There are a number of sources for his life including:

C.H. Currey, “Forbes, Sir Francis (1784-1841)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, first published in 1966.  Curry’s Sir Francis Forbes; the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales (1968) is a fine study of the colonial chief justice.

One Nineteenth Century account is: David Forbes, Memoir of Sir Francis Forbes, Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sydney: Henry Solomon, 1875.


Oil Painting of Sir Francis Forbes by an unknown artist.

Membership Information and forms for the 2015/2016 year are available in the Membership page in the above list.

In Freedom’s Cause: the Queensland Legal Profession and the Great War

The signature photo for the project is that of a solicitor, Alfred Edwin Dean, of Charters Towers, who was the son of the Clerk of Petty Sessions at Bundaberg. Alfred Dean’s promising career ended when he was killed in action 11 January 1918 in Belgium.

An exhibition and publication of the same name pays tribute to Queensland’s lawyers (and lawyers-in-training) who served in World War I. The publication was launched by the Chief Justice of Queensland, Catherine Holmes, in the Banco Court, Queensland Supreme Court on 18 February 2016

The publication, In Freedom’s Cause, and further details concerning the project are available through the following link:   publication or by downloading the order form: In Freedom’s Cause Order Form

The project aims to honour and preserve the memory of those legal professionals who left the comfort and safety of their law chambers to fight in foreign terrains and appalling conditions.

The project offers fascinating insights into Queensland society and its legal profession in the 20th century and highlights the loss  society and the legal profession as a result of the war.

New South Wales Lawyers in the First World War

There are a number of ongoing projects commemorating New South Wales Lawyers in the First World War including the development of an Honour Board of Solicitors who served (including Articled Clerks who lost their lives) to be erected in the Law Society Building and a series of biographical sketches of barristers for the NSW Bar Association Website.

Relaunch of Legal History Journal

Legal History is being relaunched with a new series in 2016 with its new academic host, Swinburne Law School in conjunction with Australian Scholarly Publishing.Swinburne Law School is calling for papers for the new series on any subject relating to legal history in Australia, the Asia-Pacific region or other common law countries.  A call for papers follows:  Call for Papers_Extended

The deadline has been extended to 28 March 2016.  All submissions should be sent to legalhistory@swin.edu.au

Swinburne Law School will be accepting submissions thereafter on a continuing basis.

Contacts: Dr Amanda Scardamaglia and Dr Jessica Lake | Editors

Legal History

Swinburne Law School | Swinburne University of Technology

P.O. Box 21, Mail H25 John Street Hawthorn VIC 3122


Sir Francis Forbes Candelabra – a link to the past.

Sir Francis Forbes


A candelabra belonging to Francis Forbes is on display in the AMAZE Gallery at the State Library of New South Wales. The candelabra was given to Sir Francis Forbes, the first Chief Justice of New South Wales ‘in token of respect and esteem for his public and private virtues’ by ‘the colonists of New South Wales’ in 1836.  The curator, Anni Turnbull, has written a blog post about the candelabra, available by cutting and pasting the following address:



Legal History Essay Competition

The 2016 Australian Legal History Essay Competition


Entrants in the 2016 Australian Legal History Essay Competition are invited to address any question of their own choice on “Australian legal history” or to address one of four sample questions proposed by the Society.

Details of the competition categories and submission details as well as the sample  questions are available on the following link: 2016 Essay Conditions and Guidelines

Essays submitted by email should be sent to secretary@forbessociety.org.au

Essays submitted by post should be addressed to: The Secretary, The Francis Society for Australian Legal History, C/- NSW Bar Association, Lower Ground Floor, Selborne Chambers, 174 Phillip Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000. Essays submitted by hand should be delivered to that address.

Judging for the People: A Social History of the Supreme Court in Victoria 1841 – 2016

Judging for the People: A Social History of the Supreme Court in Victoria 1841 – 2016 is an exhibition, conference and supported by a book which all mark 175 Years of the Supreme Court in Victoria.

The conference on 8th -  9th of April and exhibition will bring together stories about the judges of the court, the media’s relationship with the court, the developing role of the court and the rule of law, key court decisions, the changing nature of jurisdictions, legal education, and the buildings and libraries that have featured throughout its history.

Details concerning the Conference and publication are by copying and pasting the following address:




Adjudication on the Gold Fields: New Book by Dr John Hamilton QC

Dr John Hamilton QC’s book, Adjudication on the Gold Fields is to be launched by Bathurst CJ, in the Banco Court, on 8 March 2016 at 5:30 pm.

Invitation to Launch of Adjudication on the Gold Fields

John is a former judge of the Supreme Court of NSW and  an active member of both the Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History and the Australian and New Zealand Law and History Society.

New book by Mark Tedeschi QC

Mark Tedeschi QC, Senior Crown Prosecutor, has built on his previous success with the book Eugenia and continued writing about some significant trials in Australian Legal History with the publication of Kidnapped, the story of the Graeme Thorne kidnapping and death  in July 1960. It’s a fascinating story and a landmark case. Further details are available at: ‘Kidnapped’ by Mark Tedeschi QC

Forbes Flyer – Spring/Summer 2015

The Newsletter of the Francis Forbes Society

The Forbes Flyer is designed to be an informative reference source for members of the Forbes Society. It contains information about events of historical significance, articles about legal research and details of future lectures and other activities the Forbes Society.

The latest edition, No.32 (Spring/Summer 2016), is available here . No 32 Spring Summer 2015-2016

Topics include:

  • The Forbes Flyer Issue No 32 features:·       History reports itself

    ·       The 2015 Forbes Lecture in Sydney

    ·       Results of the 2015-2016 Australian Legal History Essay Competition

    ·       The Holt Prize

    ·       The Civil Procedure legislation 10 years on

    ·       Constitution patriotism in Adelaide

    ·       The Block and the land of coincidence

    ·       New books

    ·       Spring & Summer Quarters