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The Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History

NOTE: The next Forbes Tutorial is on Tuesday 30 August in Banco Court on Roman Law, presented by Justice Emmett.


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 2016/2017 year are available in the Membership page in the above list.

History of Equity Podcast

NOTE: Next Forbes Tutorial is on Tuesday 30 August in Banco Court on Roman Law, presented by Justice Emmett.

Joe Campbell QC, formerly a judge of the Supreme Court of NSW and now an Adjunct Professor at Sydney Law School, has prepared a series of podcasts on the History of Equity.


They can be accessed if you cut and paste  the following link:


These are an instructive introduction to the history of the Equity jurisdiction.


Forbes Tutorials

Australian Legal History Tutorials


A major activity for the Forbes Society in recent years has been the conduct of tutorials on Australian legal history.  The first tutorial in the series, an introduction to Australian legal history, was delivered by Keith Mason AC QC on 27 July 2016 at 5.15pm in Banco Court.

The Second Tutorial will be on Tuesday 30 August in Banco Court at 5.15 pm and will be on Roman Law and presented by Justice Emmett. Justice Emmett is very knowledgeable on this important topic and a very engaging presenter.


Further tutorials will be scheduled at regular intervals throughout the remainder of the year and details of these will be provided shortly.


Future projects


The Society is dedicated to studying and documenting the history of Australian law and encourages its members to participate actively in its affairs, including in developing any projects that the Society might support.  Please don’t hesitate to contact the Secretary of the Society (secretary@forbessociety.org.au) if you have a project that you wish to bring to the attention of the Society.

The Forbes Lecture


The Annual Forbes Lecture is an important event in the Forbes Society calendar.  This year’s lecture was delivered by Professor Jane Stapleton on 14 July 2016 at 5.15pm in the NSW Bar Association Common Room.


The Hon Justice Virginia Bell AC  chaired the lecture.


Professor Stapleton is a Professor at the Australian National University and the University of Texas, School of Law.  She is the Master-Elect of Christ’s College, University of Cambridge.


The title of Professor Stapleton’s lecture was “Lady Margaret Beaufort and the Law”.  Lady Margaret Beaufort was the mother of King Henry VII and, among many other things, established Christ’s College, Cambridge in the 1500s.  Professor Stapleton’s well attended lecture provided a fascinating insight into this remarkable woman and her relationship with the law.

New Conference: Emotions in Legal Practices: Historical and Modern Attitudes Compared,

 Registrations are now open to attend a 2-day international conference, Emotions in Legal Practices: Historical and Modern Attitudes Compared, at The University of Sydney 26-28September 2016.


This interdisciplinary conference aims to stimulate genuine debate and encourage serious reflection on the enduring ‘problem’ of rationality and emotions. Our aim is for scholars and legal practitioners to bring their different disciplinary expertise to reconsider collectively the role of emotions in legal practices both historically and today and, potentially, inform new legal policies.


Further details are available on the Centre for Emotions website: http://www.historyofemotions.org.au/events/emotions-in-legal-practices-historical-and-modern-attitudes-compared/?date=2016-09-27

Registration is free but bookings are essential. Please register at http://alturl.com/zyfjq

 Date: 26-28 September 2016 (commencing with a public lecture on the evening of 26 September by Prof. Annalise Acorn, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta, Canada).

Venue: Holme Building Refectory, Science Rd, The University of Sydney, 2006

Conference organisers: Merridee Bailey (The University of Adelaide) and Kimberley-Joy Knight (The University of Sydney)

Enquiries:  Jacquie Bennett (jacquie.bennett@adelaide.edu.au)

Registration: Registration is free, but essential as places are limited

Confirmed keynote speakers:


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


Queensland Selden Society Lecture -Mabo

Lecture four— Mabo v State of Queensland (No 2)

Selden Society 2016 Lecture Series

Lecture four—Leading Cases of the Common LawMabo v State of Queensland (No 2) (1992) 175 CLR 1 will be presented by The Hon Margaret White AO on 22 September 2016.

Mabo v Queensland (No. 2) is one of the most important judgments ever delivered by the High Court. It concerned an issue arising from events some 200 years earlier, when the Australian continent was first colonised. The issue was whether the effect of colonisation, under the common law, was to vest full ownership of all Australian land in the Crown—or whether the common law recognised land titles rising under pre-existing Indigenous laws and customs.

About the Speaker

The Hon Margaret White AO acted as junior counsel for the Queensland Government for the ten years of litigation. She brings a unique and valuable perspective to this landmark constitutional case.

The Hon Margaret White AO graduated Bachelor of Laws at the University of Adelaide in 1966. She was admitted as a barrister of the Supreme Court of Queensland in July 1978 and commenced full time practice at the Bar in Brisbane in 1983. She was appointed a Master of the Supreme Court of Queensland in 1990. On 2 April 1992, her Honour was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland—the first woman to be appointed to the Court. She was appointed to the Queensland Court of Appeal on 15 April 2010.

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.

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.