Lecture one—Sir Harry Gibbs CJ

Sir Harry Gibbs QC
Chief Justice Sir Harry Gibbs. Photo David Crosling for Newspix

Selden Society 2016 Lecture Series

Lecture one — Justices of the High Court of Australia — Sir Harry Gibbs CJ was presented by David Jackson AM QC on 17 March 2016.

Sir Harry Talbot Gibbs GCMC AC KBE QC (1917–2005) served as a Justice of the High Court of Australia for more than 16 years (1970–87), rising to the office of Chief Justice from 1981 to 1987—one of the most tumultuous periods in Australian constitutional history.

Gibbs was the son of the Ipswich solicitor and World War One veteran, Harry Victor Foote Gibbs.

After attending Ipswich Grammar School, he joined the first cohort of students to study law at the University of Queensland. Graduating with First Class Honours in 1939, Gibbs practised at the Bar for only a few months before volunteering for war service (1939–45).

After the war, he returned to the Queensland Bar and was later appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland (1961-7) and then a Judge of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy (1967–70).

Gibbs was appointed to the High Court (1970) shortly before the election of the Whitlam Federal Labor government (1972–75). During the Whitlam era, the Court became the subject of intense public scrutiny as bitter political controversies were repeatedly pursued through constitutional hallenges.

Even after this period, constitutional controversies continued, as successive Federal governments sought to extend the reach of Commonwealth power.

As a judge of exemplary ability and integrity, with no political affiliations, Sir Harry Gibbs played a key role in maintaining public confidence in the High Court during this challenging period of controversy and change.

About the Speaker

As his associate while he was a Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland, David Jackson AM QC, offers a special perspective on the life and work of Sir Harry Gibbs.

David Jackson AM QC graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Arts (1963) and Bachelor of Laws (1964). During this time he worked as Associate to the Hon Sir Harry Gibbs, then a Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland.

He was called to the Bar in 1964, appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1976 and worked in private practice in Brisbane until 1985 when he was appointed a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia (1985–87).

Mr Jackson now leads New Chambers in NSW. His principal areas of practice are appellate, constitutional law, arbitration and mediation. He has conducted a number of inquiries for the Federal and state governments and has appeared in hundreds of matters in the High Court of Australia, in both its original and appellate jurisdiction, and in numerous matters in the federal and state intermediate appeal courts. David Jackson is also a distinguished orator and writer.

Speakers notes

Download the paper from Lecture one—David Jackson AM QC on Sir Harry Gibbs 

View online

Produced by Supreme Court Library Queensland.

If you have trouble viewing the video online, or would like further information, please contact us.