George Winterton Memorial Lecture: Sir Owen Dixon Today

16 February 2017


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Sir Owen Dixon Today

Presented by Professor William Gummow, AC QC.

About the lecture

More than half a century since his retirement and nearly 90 years since he joined the High Court, Sir Owen Dixon remains at the forefront of the judicial pantheon. Yet in the period following his death in 1972 some law teachers and even judges tended, to his detriment, to associate with Dixon the epithet "legalism"; this was seen to cloak undisclosed "policy choices" and, at best, as a crippling formalism. But even a cursory reading of decisions over the last 20 years reveals continued recourse to his judgments.

This paper seeks to indicate how Dixon's reputation was acquired and the characteristics of his thought and work which today sustain much of that reputation.

About the speaker

Professor William Gummow, AC QC is a former Justice of the High Court of Australia.

Professor Gummow completed his secondary education at Sydney Grammar School. He went on to study at the University of Sydney, where he graduated as Bachelor of Arts, and later Master of Laws, both with first-class honours. One of his lecturers was Sir Anthony Mason.

Professor Gummow was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), Australia's highest civil honour, in 1997, and awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001. In 1992, The University of Sydney honoured Professor Gummow's scholarly contributions to the law by conferring him with an honorary doctorate in law (LLD).

Professor Gummow first practiced as a solicitor with law firm Allen Allen and Hemsley. He was admitted as a solicitor in 1966 and became a partner of the firm in 1969. He had a diverse practice, including banking law, intellectual property litigation, commercial transactions and some constitutional law.

After 10 years in practice as a solicitor, Professor Gummow was called to the New South Wales Bar in 1976. At the bar, his practice included equity, commercial, tax and intellectual property matters. It also included large constitutional issues and in many cases he appeared as a junior to then Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Maurice Byers. Professor Gummow was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1986.

In the period 1965-1995 Professor Gummow lectured part-time in Equity and in Intellectual Property.

In 1986, Professor Gummow was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia. He was appointed to the High Court of Australia in April 1995, retired from the High Court in October 2012 and was appointed Professor of Law at the University of Sydney commencing February 2013. Since 2013 Professor Gummow has also been a Non-Permanent Judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.


Professor Peter Gerangelos, The University of Sydney

CPD Points: 1

Click here for the George Winterton Memorial Fund gift form.

Time: 6.30-7.45pm (registration from 6.15pm)

Location: Banco Court, Supreme Court of NSW, 184 Phillip Street, Sydney

Cost: Complimentary, but registration will be essential

Contact: Professional Learning & Community Engagement

Phone: 02 9351 0429

Email: 34081c18510f4a0242441a0009155d001e6911143c4d3222