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Professor James Crawford
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Vale Professor James Crawford

15 June 2021
A tribute to intellectual giant, Professor James Crawford
Sydney Law School pays tribute to giant of international law, and former Dean, Professor James Crawford.

Professor James Crawford was a globally renowned academic, judge, author and legal practitioner in the area of international law. He was Dean of Sydney Law School from 1990 to 1992, and was Challis Professor of International Law at the University from 1986 to 1992.

Professor Crawford was, in my view, the most consequential international law publicist of his time.
Professor Tim Stephens, Sydney Law School

While his career and reputation traversed international waters, Professor Crawford maintained his influential presence and generous support of the Law School, and is fondly remembered for sharing his time and deep knowledge with students and staff alike.

 “James was supportive of countless students and early career scholars. Whenever James visited Sydney Law School he always generously offered to give guest lectures in my classes in Public International Law and these were extremely well received by our students who hung off his every word”, recalls Tim Stephens, Professor of International Law at Sydney Law School.

Professor Crawford was also an avid supporter of the Jessup International Law Mooting Competition where he was a finals Judge for many years before being appointed to the International Court of Justice as a Judge.

A superlative lawyer who remained a life-long scholar, he never lost his love of teaching – and of students.
Professor Mary Crock, Sydney Law School

(Image left to right): Professor Chester Brown and Professor James Crawford at Sydney Law School

“Even after his election to the International Court of Justice, Professor (now Judge) Crawford maintained his keen interest in engaging with students, and kindly gave a lunchtime lecture to Sydney Law School students during a fleeting visit to Sydney in 2017, and he also met with members of Sydney’s Vis Moot team. His contributions to public international law will be lasting”, said Chester Brown, Professor of International Law.

“Professor James Crawford was a huge presence in the life of many of us at Sydney Law School. He retained a great affection for Sydney Law School, fostered no doubt by his life-long friendship for the late, great Ivan Shearer as well as by the school’s attraction over the years of other inspiring international legal minds, including his own very talented daughter, Associate Professor Emily Crawford”, said Mary Crock, Professor of Public Law, Sydney Law School.

Professor James Crawford was a towering figure in international law, both as a scholar and jurist, as many have attested.
Professor Simon Bronitt, Dean and Head of School

Professor Crawford’s passion for international law started at the University of Adelaide where he completed his undergraduate law degree. He then undertook further studies in international law at Oxford University. From that point, his career soared. After spanning his extensive career, it is difficult to highlight key positions as there were many. He was an international law professor at Cambridge University, a barrister, author, judge at the International Court of Justice, and, closer to home, Dean of Sydney Law School.

Professor Crawford also left a lasting legacy relating to his commitment to recognise Indigenous law in Australian law.

"James made a pioneering contribution to better recognition of Indigenous law within Australian law, in his role as Commissioner-in-Charge of the Australian Law Reform Commission Report into Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Law (1986). I encountered his work specifically in cultural defences and sentencing decisions (the legality of ‘payback punishment’) in the early 1990s. It always stuck in my mind as displaying a thoughtful approach: pragmatic but principled through a thicket of controversial issues”, said Professor Simon Bronitt, Dean and Head of School.

“James appointed me to Australia’s first full Professorship in labour law in 1992. I happened to be the first totally blind person in Australia and New Zealand to be appointed to a full Chair. James was never phased by my disability and always was accommodating and courteous”, Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum of Sydney Law School recalls fondly.

Professor James Crawford was a friend and supporter of Sydney Law School. We will cherish our memories with him, and we are proud to say that his footprint will forever be deeply rooted in our soil.

Vale Professor James Crawford.


Banner image source is The University of Sydney Archives, reference number G77_4_0692_1.

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