From rocky beginnings to a faculty that is now ranked above world standard, the Law School reflects on its significant contribution to reform and public debate, as it celebrates a historic milestone.
The key date is 14 March 2019, when an evening reception will be held at Government House for staff and alumni, hosted by one of the school’s most distinguished graduates, Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AC. Receptions will also be held in Burnie on the 20th March and Launceston on the 11th April.
On that date in 1894 the then-Attorney-General, Andrew Inglis Clark, James Backhouse Walker, a founding father of the University, and Dr William Jethro Brown met in the Mayor’s Court Room at the Hobart Town Hall to convene the new faculty. Dr Brown had been the unanimous choice of the University Council to fill the inaugural post of Lecturer in Law and History. There were six students that year.
The Law School languished for many years after its establishment. The School, like the larger university, struggled to find its feet. It suffered from a chronic lack of resources and inadequate library facilities and its survival was threatened when class numbers fell to just one student. During much of WWII no full-time staff could be found and it was suggested that the Law School should close.
As it celebrates its 125th anniversary, it can now boast to punch well above its weight. Current Dean, Professor Tim McCormack (LLB Hons 1982) took up the post in May last year, after 28 years with the Melbourne Law School. Raised in Burnie, Professor McCormack is also considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on the prosecution of war crimes and he says today’s Law School “ought to be celebrated and defended”.
“By New Zealand standards and Australian standards, we’re on the smaller size. But in Australia, we’re the first law school of our size to attain an ERA ranking of 4, which means that we are significantly above world standard.”
Events marking the milestone will reflect on the School’s substantial contribution to law reform and public debate and recognise the success of its graduates, which include eight Tasmanian premiers, including the incumbent, the Honourable Will Hodgman (BA/LLB 1993), and five governors, including our current Governor, Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AC (LLB Hons 1970, LLM 1978). Remarkably, three former governors, Sir Guy Green, Bill Cox and Peter Underwood, all graduated together on 11 May 1960.
“Our graduates serve as ministers in governments around the world, as heads of department, in influential positions in the private sector, in NGOs … yes, it is a phenomenal record.” Professor McCormack.
Other celebratory plans to mark the anniversary include an open day at the law school; an event for students to showcase the diversity of career paths in law, bringing together leading alumni from such fields as foreign affairs and defence; politics and the judiciary. “We’ll have a bit of fun,” Professor McCormack promises.