No.30 (Summer 2013)

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History reports itself

In December, the University of Technology in Sydney hosted the 31st ANZLHS Conference, “Receiving Laws/Giving Laws”. Professor Shaunnagh Dorsett, Forbes lecturer emeritus, hosted a diversity of speakers who engaged us all over the three-day period. It was a privilege to attend.

On 4 February, Victorian Mark Dreyfus QC became Australia’s 35th Attorney-General. He follows names such as Deakin, Higgins, Hughes, Latham, Menzies, Evatt, Barwick, Bowen and Murphy.  In his maiden speech five years before, Dreyfus spoke of losing three of his great-grandparents in the Holocaust and then of his pride in representing the people of a seat named for Isaac Isaacs.

Isaacs of course was Attorney, in the course of a stellar career which saw him rise to become the first Australian-born Governor-General. There is a sad irony and, I think, some small pride for Australia that while his co-religionists were suffering statelessness, outlawry and far worse, Isaacs was able to attain positions at the very pinnacle of a society founded on the rule of law.

And while on that curious intersect of law and morality I note that Professor Ronald Dworkin died on 14 February. Student of Sir Rupert Cross, clerk for Judge Learned Hand, successor to and critic of HLA Hart, Dworkin was himself part of the 20th century’s own legal history. I was bemused to read in one obituary that he once co-taught with Robert Bork… ah, those crazy 60s!

The year is busy for conferences from one end of the earth to the other. For your convenience, this issue of the Flyer extracts conference blurbs and provides site addresses.

David Ash


Irish Legal Diaspora Conference: Dublin, 7-8 July 2013

The Irish legal diaspora has had a significant impact on the development of legal systems all over the globe. Over the centuries Irish lawyers have imbued the law of many lands, including Australia, with their own ideals and experience.

The life and career of John Hubert Plunkett (1802-1869) provides a useful example. Plunkett established a successful career as a barrister in Ireland. He was appointed Solicitor General of New South Wales in 1832. For the next three decades he made a major contribution to the development of law and society in the colony, as Solicitor General and later as Attorney General. In 1835 he published “The Australian Magistrate”, the first book on Australian legal practice.

The Irish Legal History Society would like to invite Irish and international scholars to Dublin in order to celebrate the global significance of the legal diaspora. This event is supported by the Society as part of its 25th anniversary celebrations. The dates of this conference dovetail with the British Legal History Conference that will be held at the University of Glasgow on 10-13 July 2013. Some participants may wish to attend both events.

Proposals of less than 500 words for papers relating to the Irish legal diaspora in any part of the world should reach the organisers by 30 September 2012. More details can be found on our website:

Conference email:

British Legal History Conference 2013: 10-13 July 2013

The Twenty-First British Legal History Conference will be held at the University of Glasgow from Wednesday 10 July 2013 to Saturday 13 July 2013, coinciding with the tercentenary of the foundation in 1713 of the Regius Chair of Law at Glasgow. The conference theme will be Law and Authority.

The conference addresses the ways law has been shaped historically by different forms and ideas of authority, and how sources of law and frameworks for their application have developed over time in relation to concepts of authority, or to the authority of other institutions, processes or actors within the legal order.

Australian and New Zealand Law and History Society 2013 Conference: November 2013

With the generous support of the New Zealand Law Foundation, this conference provides an opportunity to come together, share and be inspired about global, international comparative, national and local ideas of the role of law in configuring historical understandings of people, power and place. This will be an exciting interdisciplinary conference for all persons interested in the connections between law and history.

A must attend event in the special place of Dunedin – home to Aoteaora New Zealand’s oldest university, the University of Otago, the stunning new Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, and the much loved Hocken Library.

The University of Otago Faculty of Law and Department of History & Art History look forward to hosting you in November 2013.

All welcome – the call for abstracts is open.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography

Volume 18 of the ADB is off the presses. A glance through the 682 entries (at shows the ongoing contribution of lawyers and legally trained minds to the nation. Entries include Lionel Murphy (a man whose contribution to our modern nation was huge and hugely controversial); Eric Miller QC (for the successful Mr Jones in the High Court decision of Jones v Dunkel); Ken McCaw (the industrious and principled NSW Attorney). I was curious to see that art patron John Reed had been a partner at Blake & Riggall, and delighted in Ted Laurie’s entry as “barrister and communist”.

Sir William Cullen

In February in the Sydney suburb of Mosman, last year’s Forbes lecturer Tony Cunneen delivered a further paper on Sir William Cullen, erstwhile Chief Justice of New South Wales. Cullen was not merely a lawyer, but a civilizing force in the Australian polity. Tony reports that one of Sir William’s descendants was able to be present on a delightful occasion.

The 2013 Australian Legal History Essay Competition

Entrants in the 2013 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 questions proposed by the Society.

The set questions respectively address: (1) the reception of English law in Australia by reference to Cable v Sinclair [1788] NSWKR 7, Dugan v Mirror Newspapers Limited (1978) 142 CLR 583 and Cooper v Stuart (1889) 4 App Cas 286 at 291; (2) the question whether, from the respective perspectives of a free woman married to a capital felon in colonial Australia and an indigenous Australian, it is correct to say that Australian law has never countenanced slavery; (3) the question whether modern Australia’s aversion to capital punishment has any connection with the convict origins of Australian society, in which capital punishment was a known quantity; and (4) the historical significance of the High Court of Australia in the Australian legal system by reference to one or more of its seminal judgments.

For more information, including Conditions of Entry and Guidelines, go to

Summer Quarters[i]

In summer 1813

On 29 January 1813, Jane Austen publishes Pride and Prejudice.

In Summer 1863

On 1 January 1863, President Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation.

In summer 1913

On 9 January 1913, Richard M Nixon is born; on 4 February, so too Rosa Parks.

In summer 1963

On 1 January 1963, two youths searching for golf balls find Dr Chandler’s body near Lane Cove River; Mrs Chandler’s is found soon after.

[i] Usually, the Flyer draws the references from or from

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