Refurbishment provides UQ law students with world class facilities

14 Mar 2017

The $35-million renovation of a Brisbane icon – The University of Queensland’s Forgan Smith building – has been officially opened by The Hon Justice Susan Kiefel AC, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia.

UQ Chancellor Peter Varghese AO, Professor Sarah Derrington (Dean of Law and Head of TC Beirne School of Law), The Hon Justice Susan Kiefel AC, UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj AC.

The west wing renovation provides the TC Beirne School of Law with state-of-the-art facilities to support the school’s strengthened focus on collaborative, interactive and innovative learning.

Chief Justice Kiefel received a Doctor of Laws honoris causa from UQ in 2009.

Last night she told more than 200 guests - including philanthropists, alumni and members of the legal fraternity - that law schools must strive to provide contemporary learning experiences for their students.

“It has long been recognised that legal training is an invaluable intellectual discipline of a special kind,” Chief Justice Kiefel said.

“If a modern law school seeks to draw people to it – to teach, to research and to study – it must ensure that the design of its physical features reflects the modernity and organisational principles of the law school and at the same time, the enduring nature of the law.

“Knowing the Dean of this Law School as I do, I have no doubt that the new-look School will achieve all of these things.”

The Forgan Smith building, a fine Brisbane example of 1930s architecture, was designed as the visual centrepiece of UQ. 

Construction began in 1938 and was interrupted by World War II when the building was requisitioned by the Australian Army and housed General Thomas Blamey, who reported to Major General Douglas MacArthur during the US offensive in South-East Asia.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said the cost of the renovation was being met by a combination of UQ capital works funding and philanthropic donations.

“The TC Beirne School of Law is ranked among the top 50 in the world, and we aim to strengthen its position by offering an exceptional learning experience and world-leading research,” he said.

“Thanks to your generous support, this year the UQ Law School opens its doors to provide students with a world-class, stimulating and interactive place of light and learning.”

Dean of Law and Head of School Professor Sarah Derrington said the new facilities reflected contemporary teaching practices and the fact that the legal workplace was much more collaborative than in the past.

“It is a delight to move back into the Forgan Smith building and be able to offer interactive research spaces, break-out rooms, independent study areas and innovative learning, research and academic facilities,” she said.

”Our Bachelor of Laws (Hons) students will have the opportunity to serve the wider community and develop as exceptional legal thinkers with the discipline, ingenuity and connections to create change and enrich the world.”

Professor Derrington said alumni and the legal fraternity had supported an endowed scholarship fund to ensure talented financially-disadvantaged students had the support they needed to study at the school.

“I am humbled and encouraged by the generous support we have received,” she said.

“Naming opportunities in Forgan Smith are still available – ranging from study booths to teaching rooms.  Donors have the option of naming a space in their own right or in memory of an inspirational friend or family member.”

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Media: Alysha Hilevuo, 07 3346 9349, 0428 884 097.


Forgan Smith – background

Construction on the Forgan Smith building began in 1938 and was interrupted in 1942 by World War Two, when the building was requisitioned by the Australian Army and became the Advanced Land Headquarters of the Allied Defence Forces, known as Landops. 

Building was completed after the war and Forgan Smith was officially opened in 1949. Australia has few 1930s-era buildings of its equal, and there are none at any other Australian university.

The two-storey building includes nine sections of sculptured friezes along its parapet, depicting secondary industries significant in Queensland during the 1930s, with bas-relief carvings on the doorways of each wing depicting historical academic figures.

Notable TC Beirne School of Law alumni include:

  • Hon Paul de Jersey AC QC – Queensland Governor
  • Hon Justice Catherine Holmes – Chief Justice of Queensland
  • Hon Dame Quentin Bryce, AD CVO – former Governor-General of Australia
  • Mary Leneen Forde AC – former Queensland Governor
  • Sir Zelman Cowen AK GCMG GCVO PC
  • Catherine Tanna, prominent Australian businesswoman
  • Sir Walter Campbell AC QC – former Queensland Governor
  • Sir Francis Gerard Brennan AC KBE QC – former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
  • Justice Patrick Keane
  • Peter Dunning QC – Queensland Solicitor General
  • Justice John K Bond
  • John Muir QC
  • Hon Ian Callinan AC QC
  • Sir Harry Talbot Gibbs GCMG, AC, KBE, QC
  • Hon Mark McGowan - Premier of Western Australia