Legal duo receive honorary doctorates

25 May 2021
Doctor of Laws for Annabelle and David Bennett
A former Federal Court judge and a former Commonwealth Solicitor-General - who are also wife and husband - have been honoured by their alma mater, the University of Sydney.

The Honourable Annabelle Bennett AC SC and David Bennett AC QC have been awarded Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) degrees from the University of Sydney.

The legal heavyweights, also husband and wife, are recognised for their contributions to the law and society.

Mrs Bennett served as a judge in the Federal Court of Australia from 2003 to 2016. She is now Chancellor of Bond University. Mr Bennett is the Former Commonwealth Solicitor-General (1998-2008).

Professor Simon Bronitt, Head of School and Dean, Sydney Law School, said: “The award, one of the most significant offered by the University, celebrates the distinguished careers in law, and service to the profession and community of David Bennett AC QC and The Hon Annabelle Bennett AC SC FAA.

“Their accomplishments are inspirations to future graduates of the Sydney Law School.”

The Honourable Annabelle Bennett AC SC

Mrs Bennett was born in Sydney. Her father, a lawyer, dissuaded her from studying law, and she decided instead to study science at the University of Sydney. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a PhD specialising in cell biology. Despite her father’s caution, Annabelle subsequently studied a Bachelor of Laws at the University of New South Wales. Following her graduation, she began practising as a barrister with a focus on intellectual property law.

During her 13-year judgeship in the Federal Court, she was also an additional Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, and practised as a consultant Senior Counsel, mediator and arbitrator at 5 Wentworth – the longest established chambers in Sydney. 

Annabelle is currently the Chancellor of Bond University. She also holds numerous other positions, including Chair of the Board of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation – a nod to her scientific roots.

She was appointed an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia in 2005. This was upgraded to a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia in 2019, in recognition of her service to intellectual property law, and her contributions to higher education and sports arbitration.

Mrs Bennett has been a prominent voice for women in the legal field as a member (and former President) of Chief Executive Women, among other women’s leadership positions.

David Bennett AC QC

Born in Buckinghamshire, UK, Mr Bennett relocated to Australia with his family in 1951. He graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws, before obtaining a Master of Laws and Doctor of Judicial Science from Harvard University. His father, Louis Bennett, was a well-known Sydney solicitor.

David worked as a solicitor from 1964 to 1967 before being called to the New South Wales bar in 1967. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1979.

From 1998-2008, he was Solicitor-General for the Commonwealth of Australia and was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2003 for his service in that role.

From 2009 to 2012 he was a member of the Australian Government’s Takeovers Panel, a peer review body that regulates corporate control transactions in widely held Australian entities. This was in addition to practising as Senior Counsel at 5 Wentworth Chambers.

Throughout his career, he has held numerous high-profile honorary positions, including President of the Australian Bar Association. He has led groups of barristers in Bangladesh, taught advocacy to young lawyers, and has recently taken on a considerable number of pro bono and legal aid cases.

For his service to the legal profession, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2000. In 2008 he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia, for, among other things, his advice on matters of national interest during his time as the Commonwealth Solicitor-General.

Hero image: L-R: University of Sydney Chancellor, Belinda Hutchinson AC, the Honourable Annabelle Bennett AC SC, David Bennett AC QC, Dean, Sydney Law School, Professor Simon Bronitt.

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