The Honourable Sir Francis Brennan AC KBE QC



Mr Chancellor,

Francis Gerard Brennan was born in Rockhampton and attended the Christian Brothers College in that city and Downlands College, Toowoomba, before coming to the University of Queensland to study Arts and Law. In 1949 he became President of the National Union of Australian University Students. He was admitted to the Queensland Bar in 1951. In 1965 he became a Queen's Counsel and from 1974 he received every recognition and honour that his profession was capable of bestowing upon him. He was president of the Bar Association of Queensland (1974-76), President of the Australian Bar Association (1975-76), a Member of the Australian Law Reform Commission (1975-77) and President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (1976-79). He was an Additional Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory (1976-81), and of the Australian Industrial Court over the same period and Judge of the Federal Court of Australia (1977-81). In 1981 he was elevated to the bench of the High Court of Australia and that position he held until 1995 when he achieved the highest honour of appointment as Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. 

This formidable list of achievements, remarkable in itself, tells only half the story of his career, for the way in which these position have been filled has been of equal importance to their actual attainment. Gerard Brennan has been the _supreme master of judicial creativity, the great exponent of the belief that judges are no mere passive recipients of law handed down by legislators but have themselves a significant role to play in the shaping of the law as well as the administration of law and justice. He has rejected the most formal and arid interpretations of the doctrine of separation of powers, on the principle that, where the legislature has been lacking or lagging behind, the judiciary has a proactive role to play. Nowhere has this philosophy been more in evidence than in the landmark Mabo case, where he delivered the most comprehensive, influential and memorable of all the judgments handed down to date by the highest court in Australia. 

Mr Chancellor, in recognition of his distinguished service to the law in Australia, I present to you Francis Gerard Brennan, Companion of the Order of Australia, Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Bachelor of Arts and Laws of this University, and Honorary Doctor of Laws, Trinity College Dublin, for the conferral of the award of Doctor of Laws honoris causa, to which he has been admitted by the Senate of the University. 


Doctor of Laws honoris causa


Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Laws
Doctor of Laws honoris causa