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Sir (Francis) Gerard Brennan AC KBE QC

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Justice, 12 February 1981 to 20 April 1995
Chief Justice, 21 April 1995 to 21 May 1998

A champion of individual rights, Gerard Brennan (1928-2022) ‘embodied the tension that is at the heart of the judicial oath’.1 His belief that the law’s principal function is to protect the disadvantaged was balanced by a strong adherence to the rule of law, which limited his ‘ability to engage in judicial law-making’.2

Brennan was born in Queensland where his father Frank was a state parliamentarian and a justice of the Supreme Court. Academically gifted, Brennan graduated from the University of Queensland with an Arts/Law degree.After a short period as an associate, first to his father, and then to Kenneth Townley, another Supreme Court justice, Brennan was admitted to the Queensland Bar in 1951. His private practice was diverse and successful. In 1953 he married Dr Patricia O’Hara, with whom he had seven children. The eldest, Frank Brennan, is a well-known Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer.4

Brennan became a QC in 1965, and during his time at the Bar played a leading role serving as president of both the Queensland and Australian Bars. Notably, in 1973-74 he became one of the first advocates to argue for Indigenous land rights during the Woodward Royal Commission. In 1976, the Fraser Government appointed Brennan as the first president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.5

Brennan was one of the original appointees to the Federal Court in 1977 and in 1981 was appointed to the High Court of Australia. His early decisions on the High Court established him as someone with a well-defined view of judicial power, but equally ‘willing to develop the law’ when necessary.6 In Koowarta7 and Tasmanian Dams,8 he ‘gave wide scope’ to the Commonwealth’s external affairs powers under section 51 of the Constitution.9 In Mabo, Brennan rejected the doctrine of terra nullius as antithetical to ‘the values of justice and human rights (especially equality before the law) which are aspirations of the contemporary Australian legal system’.10

Following Chief Justice Anthony Mason’s mandatory retirement in 1995, Brennan was elevated to Chief Justice. It was a transitional period in the Court with four new members appointed in his three-year tenure.11 After his retirement in 1998, he served as Chancellor of UTS between 1999 and 2005.12

Brennan was appointed a KBE in 1981, and an AC in 1988. He has been awarded several honorary degrees including from the University of Queensland and Trinity College, Dublin. He is a Life Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.13 Brennan died in Sydney in June 2022 aged 94.14

Robert Lyall Hannaford AM

South Australian-born painter, sculptor and conservationist Robert Hannaford (b.1944) grew up on his family farm before moving to Adelaide in his teens to complete his education. He worked as a political cartoonist for the Advertiser from 1964 to 1967. Though largely self-taught, Hannaford’s passion for painting was encouraged by Australian artists and mentors, Hans Heysen and Ivor Hele. In 1967 and 1968, Hannaford attended the Ballarat Technical Art School, under the control of the School of Mines, and from 1969 to 1973 was the winner of the AME Bale Travelling Scholarship and Art Prize. Hannaford has been at the forefront of contemporary Australian portraiture, winning the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 1990, the Viewer Prize in 1991 and 1998, and was a frequent finalist in the Archibald Prize. He also painted Prime Minister Paul Keating for the HMC. In 2001, he was commissioned to paint the centenary sitting of the Australian Parliament. Hannaford’s portraits of other prominent Australians include Chief Justice Murray Gleeson, Dame Joan Sutherland and Governor-General Sir William Deane. Hannaford was made an AM in 2014 for his service to the arts.15

(Francis) Gerard Brennan 
by Robert Lyall Hannaford

Oil on canvas
122 x 91.4 cm
Historic Memorials Collection, High Court of Australia

1. B Baker and S Gageler, ‘Brennan, (Francis) Gerard’, in T Blackshield, M Coper and G Williams, eds, The Oxford Companion to the High Court of Australia, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Victoria, 2001, pp. 66–68, accessed 27 August 2021.
2. Ibid.
3. B Baker and S Gageler, ‘Brennan, (Francis) Gerard’, in T Blackshield, M Coper and G Williams, eds, The Oxford Companion to the High Court of Australia, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Victoria, 2001, pp. 66–68, accessed 27 August 2021.
4. ‘Fr Frank Brennan’, Australian Catholic University, accessed 26 August 2021, accessed 27 August 2021.
5. Baker and Gageler, op. cit.
6. Ibid.
7. ‘Koowarta v Bjelke-Petersen’ [1982], High Court of Australia, 153 CLR 168, accessed 27 August 2021.
8. ‘The Commonwealth of Australia v Tasmania (The Tasmanian Dam Case)’ [1983], High Court of Australia, 158 CLR 1, accessed 27 August 2021.
9. Baker and Gageler, op. cit.
10. ‘Mabo v Queensland (No. 2)’ [1992], High Court of Australia, 175 CLR 1, accessed 27 August 2021.
11. DF Jackson, ‘Brennan Court’ in Blackshield et al., op. cit.
12. ‘UTS Timeline’, University of Technology Sydney, accessed 26 August 2021.
13. ‘Gerard Brennan’ Australian Academy of Law, accessed 26 August 2021.
14. M Pelly, ‘High Court Justice ‘a man of deep humanity’’, Financial Review 2 June 2022, accessed 3 June 2022.
15.‘Hannaford, Robert’, A McCulloch, S McCulloch and E McCulloch Childs, eds, The New McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art, Aus Art Editions in association with The Miegunyah Press, 2006, p. 496; ‘Robert Hannaford’, High Court of Australia; ‘Robert Hannaford: artist statement’; ‘Robert Hannaford’, National Portrait Gallery, 2018. Websites accessed 25 March 2021.

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