Garfield Barwick
Sir Garfield Edward John Barwick, (22 June 1903 – 13 July 1997) was the Attorney-General of Australia (1958–64), Minister for External Affairs (1961–64) and the seventh and longest serving Chief Justice of Australia
Chief Justice of Australia
The Chief Justice of Australia is the informal title for the presiding justice of the High Court of Australia and the highest-ranking judicial officer in the Commonwealth of Australia...

 (1964–81). He was appointed a judge of the International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands...



Barwick was born to Methodist parents, of Cornish origin
Cornish Australian
Cornish Australians are citizens of Australia whose ancestry originates in Cornwall, United Kingdom, one of the six Celtic Nations. They form part of the worldwide Cornish diaspora which also includes large numbers of people in the US, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico and many Latin...

, he would later be very insistent on his Cornish identity. He grew up in an impoverished suburb of Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

, and attended, on a scholarship, Fort Street High School
Fort Street High School
Fort Street High School is a co-educational, academically selective, public high school currently located at Petersham, an inner western suburb of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia....

 in that city. He graduated from the University of Sydney
University of Sydney
The University of Sydney is a public university located in Sydney, New South Wales. The main campus spreads across the suburbs of Camperdown and Darlington on the southwestern outskirts of the Sydney CBD. Founded in 1850, it is the oldest university in Australia and Oceania...

 with a University Medal
University Medal
A University Medal is one of several different types of awards, bestowed by universities upon outstanding students or members of staff. The usage and status of university medals differ between countries.-As award on graduation:...

 in law. A good student, he was admitted to practice soon after finishing university, although (on his own later admission) he suffered severely in financial terms during the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. He failed to repay a cousin's loan from a bank which he had guaranteed and was made bankrupt. This was held against him by many throughout his career.

Nevertheless, he practised as a barrister
A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions...

 in many jurisdictions, achieving considerable recognition and the reluctant respect of opponents. Having been briefed in many of Australia's defining constitutional cases (e.g., the Airlines case
Australian National Airways Pty Ltd v Commonwealth
Australian National Airways Pty Ltd v Commonwealth 71 CLR 29 - most commonly known as Australian National Airways Pty Ltd v Commonwealth and also referred to as The Airlines Case or the ANA Case - was a High Court of Australia decision...

, and the Bank Nationalisation case
Commonwealth v Bank of New South Wales
Commonwealth v Bank of New South Wales 79 CLR 497; [1950] AC 235 - popularly known as the Bank Nationalisation Case - was a Privy Council decision that affirmed the High Court of Australia's decision in Bank of New South Wales v Commonwealth, promoting the theory of "individual rights" to ensure...

), he was knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

ed in 1953.

A famous example of his astute advocacy involved thirteen Malaysians sentenced to death who appealed to the Privy Council. Twelve retained Barwick, who duly found a technical deficiency in the arrest warrants and secured their freedom. The last, whose counsel was not so thorough, was executed.

Barwick was elected to the House of Representatives
Australian House of Representatives
The House of Representatives is one of the two houses of the Parliament of Australia; it is the lower house; the upper house is the Senate. Members of Parliament serve for terms of approximately three years....

 as the Liberal
Liberal Party of Australia
The Liberal Party of Australia is an Australian political party.Founded a year after the 1943 federal election to replace the United Australia Party, the centre-right Liberal Party typically competes with the centre-left Australian Labor Party for political office...

 member for Parramatta
Division of Parramatta
The Division of Parramatta is an Australian Electoral Division in New South Wales. The division was created in 1900 and was one of the original 75 divisions contested at the first federal election. It is named for the locality of Parramatta. The name Parramatta has been sourced to an Aboriginal...

 at a by-election
A by-election is an election held to fill a political office that has become vacant between regularly scheduled elections....

 on 8 March 1958, and re-elected in the general election
General election
In a parliamentary political system, a general election is an election in which all or most members of a given political body are chosen. The term is usually used to refer to elections held for a nation's primary legislative body, as distinguished from by-elections and local elections.The term...

s of 1958, 1961 and 1963.

During his period in parliament
Parliament of Australia
The Parliament of Australia, also known as the Commonwealth Parliament or Federal Parliament, is the legislative branch of the government of Australia. It is bicameral, largely modelled in the Westminster tradition, but with some influences from the United States Congress...

 he served as Attorney-General
Attorney-General of Australia
The Attorney-General of Australia is the first law officer of the Crown, chief law officer of the Commonwealth of Australia and a minister of the Crown. The Attorney-General is usually a member of the Federal Cabinet, but there is no constitutional requirement that this be the case since the...

 and Minister for External Affairs
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Australia)
In the Government of Australia, the Minister for Foreign Affairs is responsible for overseeing the international diplomacy section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In common with international practice, the office is often informally referred to as Foreign Minister...

. As Attorney-General he promoted acts amending the Matrimonial Causes Act and the Crimes Act. He established a model for restrictive trade practices legislation. He led the Australian delegation to the General Assembly of the United Nations for its 15th, 17th and 18th sessions.

On 27 April 1964, he was appointed Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
High Court of Australia
The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, has the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the States, and...

: the first law graduate from the University of Sydney to hold this position. He was instrumental in the construction of the High Court building in Canberra (unofficially known, as a result, as "Gar's Mahal"), and became the first president of the Australian Conservation Foundation
Australian Conservation Foundation
The Australian Conservation Foundation is an Australian non-profit, community-based environmental organisation focused on advocacy, policy research and community outreach.-History:...

 in 1966.

Barwick was one of only eight justices of the High Court to have served in the Parliament of Australia
Parliament of Australia
The Parliament of Australia, also known as the Commonwealth Parliament or Federal Parliament, is the legislative branch of the government of Australia. It is bicameral, largely modelled in the Westminster tradition, but with some influences from the United States Congress...

 prior to his appointment to the Court; the others were Edmund Barton
Edmund Barton
Sir Edmund Barton, GCMG, KC , Australian politician and judge, was the first Prime Minister of Australia and a founding justice of the High Court of Australia....

, Richard O'Connor, Isaac Isaacs
Isaac Isaacs
Sir Isaac Alfred Isaacs GCB GCMG KC was an Australian judge and politician, was the third Chief Justice of Australia, ninth Governor-General of Australia and the first born in Australia to occupy that post. He is the only person ever to have held both positions of Chief Justice of Australia and...

, H. B. Higgins
H. B. Higgins
Henry Bournes Higgins , Australian politician and judge, always known in his lifetime as H. B. Higgins, was a highly influential figure in Australian politics and law.-Career:...

, Edward McTiernan
Edward McTiernan
Sir Edward Aloysius McTiernan, KBE , was an Australian jurist, lawyer and politician. He served as an Australian Labor Party member of both the New South Wales Legislative Assembly and federal House of Representatives before being appointed to the High Court of Australia in 1930...

, John Latham, and Lionel Murphy
Lionel Murphy
Lionel Keith Murphy, QC was an Australian politician and jurist who served as Attorney-General in the government of Gough Whitlam and as a Justice of the High Court of Australia from 1975 until his death.- Personal life :...


During the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, he controversially advised Governor-General
A Governor-General, is a vice-regal person of a monarch in an independent realm or a major colonial circonscription. Depending on the political arrangement of the territory, a Governor General can be a governor of high rank, or a principal governor ranking above "ordinary" governors.- Current uses...

 Sir John Kerr on the constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

al legality of dismissing a prime minister who declined to advise an election when unable to obtain passage of supply. This was significant, because Barwick and Gough Whitlam
Gough Whitlam
Edward Gough Whitlam, AC, QC , known as Gough Whitlam , served as the 21st Prime Minister of Australia. Whitlam led the Australian Labor Party to power at the 1972 election and retained government at the 1974 election, before being dismissed by Governor-General Sir John Kerr at the climax of the...

, whose government Kerr dismissed, had a history of antipathy dating from the mid-1950s. He retired from the bench
A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

 in 1981, but continued to be active as a much-sought-after expert on legal issues until the end of his life.

He died on 13 July 1997, aged 94.


In June 1953, he was made a Knight Bachelor
Knight Bachelor
The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

, "in recognition of service to the Public service".

In 1964 he was appointed a Privy Counsellor.

In January 1965 he was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
Order of St Michael and St George
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

 (GCMG), honouring his contribution as Chief Justice of the High Court.

In June 1981 he was appointed a Knight of the Order of Australia
Order of Australia
The Order of Australia is an order of chivalry established on 14 February 1975 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, "for the purpose of according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or for meritorious service"...

 (AK), "in recognition of service to the Australian Parliament, government and the law".

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