Jack Goldring—A man for all seasons

Jack Goldring Memorial Lecture 2015, 9 October 2015, University of Wollongong, Professor Rosalind Croucher AM* President, Australian Law Reform Commission


Thank you Dean Warwick Gullett for your warm introduction. Like you, may I also acknowledge the eminent guests attending today: including Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings CBE; former Vice-Chancellor Emeritus Professor Gerard Sutton AO; University of Wollongong Law School Advisory Committee members and staff; Jack’s partner, Sue Kirby—and my husband, Professor John Croucher AM.

As the head of an Australian Government agency it is our respectful practice to begin by acknowledging and paying respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, on this occasion the Wadi Wadi people of Dharawal Country. I pay my respects to elders past and present and acknowledge any Indigenous guests attending this evening.

Thank you for giving me the true honour of presenting the 5th annual Jack Goldring Memorial Lecture.

I undertake this task as a great privilege, but also with a deep sadness in my heart. It is a memorial lecture after all, and Jack left this world on 6 October 2009, just over five years ago this week. He was only 66.

I note the titles of previous lectures and that they have focused on particular themes: the Hon Chief Justice Robert French AC spoke of ‘The Judicial Function in an Age of Statutes’; Susan Ryan AO on ‘The Role of Law in Protecting Human Rights’; and the Hon Justice Virginia Bell AC on ‘The Administration of Criminal Justice’.  The lecture by the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, on ‘JL Goldring, legal education and a most unusual occupation’, was more biographical and was a wonderful exposition of Jack’s contributions to legal education in particular.[1]

But anyone who knew Jack cannot but include some personal reflections. Each of us shares that deep sadness at the untimely loss to us all, and to Australia, of a great man. Susan Ryan spoke with warm affection for Jack, as a ‘good man’ and of the ‘fine values’ he lived by.

The more I thought of what I would call tonight’s presentation the more I returned to the idea of making it all about Jack as a man of deep principle that permeated everything he did. And it was that understanding of Jack that made me think of Sir Thomas More, as similarly a man of principle, and the title of Robert Bolt’s play about Sir Thomas More, ‘A Man for All Seasons’. (I was also deeply immersed in Hilary Mantel’s wonderful books on Thomas Cromwell at the time). Both, men of principle, left this world too early: Sir Thomas More by execution; Jack by illness.

Thomas More was an English lawyer, later judge, social philosopher, author and statesman.[2] He toyed with abandoning his legal career to become a monk. While he remained in the secular profession, he adopted ascetical practices, such as wearing a hair shirt next to his skin and occasionally flagellation. More insisted that his four daughters be given the same classical education as his son. He was committed to high standards of education.

He was a councillor to Henry VIII and Lord High Chancellor of England and became Lord Chancellor in 1529, after the fall of Cardinal Wolsey.

But the theological became political. He ran into grief over Henry’s separation from the Catholic Church, by refusing to acknowledge him as the Supreme head of the Church of England (which Henry needed to advance his marital aims concerning his divorce of Catherine and marriage to Anne Boleyn).

It was More’s refusal to take the Oath of Supremacy that led to his conviction for treason and his execution on 6 July 1535 (He was beheaded, commuted by the King from the more gruesome hanging, drawing and quartering—the usual punishment for treason for non-nobles). He died on principle.

In my presentation tonight I will include in Jack’s ‘seasons’ his academic roles, at Macquarie and Wollongon, but also his work in the law reform context. Virginia Bell paid tribute to Jack’s work as a judge, particularly as a judge sitting on criminal law matters, and I commend her talk to you for that particular season of his life.

Jack at Macquarie

I first met Jack in the summer of 1981–82.  I was being interviewed for a position of Tutor at Macquarie Law School (now called ‘Associate Lecturer’). This was the first step on the academic ladder—and mine. I hadn’t planned on an academic career, but took to it like a duck to water when the opportunity came my way. I had been working with a law firm, but the birth of my first child precipitated a change in pathway.

There were two Professors on the interview panel: Professor John Peden and Professor Jack Goldring. I was, in hindsight, terribly nervous. I was used to performing, as a professional musician, and had done the whole audition thing, but this was really my first proper interview for a job. I know I must have been nervous as my right foot, wrapped tightly behind my left, had gone to sleep and, on attempting to stand, I nearly fell flat on my face!

I was successful in the interview. But when I think back on it, it was a curious appointment and demonstrated a most lateral approach to hiring. Having sat on academic selection committees for many years, my extraordinary good luck in securing that position becomes more strongly etched on my consciousness.

One of the things they were looking for was demonstrated capacity for teaching.

Well, I had been a professional musician around the edges of my law studies and had taught a residential summer school in early music, with a group aged from 17 to 70. Clearly this struck a chord with Professors Peden and Goldring as they identified this particular experience as demonstrating a capacity for teaching distance students. The subject was different, but, heck, the capacity was there—and they needed it.

I remember Jack encouraging me, reflecting that it was much easier for him, having taught subjects ‘twelve times’. Twelve times!, I thought, which seemed at the time to be like saying ‘forever’. He was right, of course. And it certainly got easier after about maybe the third time teaching and developing the same subject.

I treasure a copy of one of Jack’s books, Sale of Goods,[3] that he signed for me in 1982, writing:

To Rosalind, I hope this will be inspiration rather than drudgery. Jack.

It shows his humour, but also how he was gently self-effacing.

Jack’s career before Macquarie had been as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Papua New Guinea (1970–72), then at the ANU, first as a lecturer, then Senior Lecturer and Reader (1972–1980), where he helped to found the Legal Service Bulletin, which became the Alternative Law Journal. Then in 1981 he was appointed as a Professor of Law at Macquarie University, which at the time was a relatively new law school, having only opened in 1975. He was 38.

By this time Jack had developed a clear sense of what legal education could and should be, shaped in response to his experiences as a student of Sydney Law School in the early 1960s. His legal education was typical of that time. He graduated in 1967—the same year that Michael Kirby graduated with an LLM.[4] Law faculties then ‘were generally seen as adjuncts to the legal profession rather than truly academic institutions dedicated to liberal educational aims’.[5] They were, essentially, ‘trade schools’.[6] More than half of his teachers were part-time; most were legal practitioners; and not available to students.[7]

Amongst Jack’s teachers, however, was Professor Julius Stone, Challis Professor of Jurisprudence. Writing in 2001, Jack reflected on Stone’s influence on him.

Stone, an Englishman, had worked extensively at Harvard with Dean Roscoe Pound, and was heavily influenced by the American Realists, who distinguished the law in action from law in the books. Stone questioned the formalism that had dominated English legal scholarship (there was virtually no Australian legal scholarship), and his students became aware of the social dimensions of law and justice.[8]

Stone had an enormous influence on Jack—and a whole generation of Australian academics. Not surprisingly, Jack then went to study in the US at the Columbia University in New York to undertake his LLM.

The idea of ‘law in action’ rather than ‘law in the books’ was to be a deeply ingrained first principle of Jack’s approach to legal education.

Jack’s interests developed as of a broad social justice kind, focusing on the ‘underdog’ in the form of the consumer. His initial two years as an academic at the University of Papua New Guinea also developed in him, as Michael Kirby suggested, a ‘new sensitivity to the issues of indigenous peoples and the law’.[9] He developed an increasing interest in the theory and practice of legal education; as well as the composition of the student population.[10]

At the same time as Jack was finishing his studies, there were seismic shifts happening in legal education. ‘Law in action’, ‘law in its social context’ became key themes.[11] Law schools were moving squarely into the academy, ‘as liberal arts departments rather than professional schools’,[12] and the staff were transformed from the part-time lecturer-practitioner to the full-time career academic.[13] This trend became increasingly the norm in common law countries;[14] and was certainly the case in Australia.[15]

The number of law schools was about to grow. In 1960 there were six. Within four decades the number was in the high 30s.[16] New law schools seized the opportunity of doing things differently. The relationship with the profession also changed and the law schools moved firmly into the academy.

In 1971 UNSW Law school opened its doors—the second law school in NSW. It was here that Hal Wootten, as Professor and Foundation Dean, used the blank canvas presented to do something different—from Sydney Law School, or at least his own experiences as a student there. What Wootten did at UNSW impressed Jack, as he wrote in 2001:

Wootten … set about to teach law in a way which broke down the traditional categories … The Law faculty was conceived of, and operated as, a dedicated academic community in which all staff and students participated enthusiastically.

The focus was on the law in action, rather than the traditional theoretical classification of law in the books. The curriculum was designed so that law was approached in a functional way—real life situations were described so that students had to analyse how these situations gave rise to legal problems. They then had to find and apply the law, without regard to traditional categories, just as practising lawyers had to do in real life.

Similarly, different teaching strategies were adopted. Rather than lectures, repeated each year to groups of hundreds of students, Wootten and his colleagues planned that students would learn in small groups of no more than 15 students, who would learn by reading materials prepared in advance, solving problems and discussion.[17]

It was an exciting time for those looking towards new ways of conducting legal education.[18]

Macquarie Law School was next in line in the Sydney metropolitan area. The UNSW model (as Jack called it) found another home.

Like UNSW, Macquarie also sought to differentiate itself from more traditional law teaching, looking at the function of law rather than the traditional textbook categories. Macquarie Law School was also committed to the study of law in a social context.[19]

Macquarie also emphasised students, in student-centred learning (although it wasn’t called this at the time), and educational design.[20]

When Macquarie offered a Chair to Jack, it is not surprising that he leapt at the opportunity it gave him. (And not just to move from Canberra). He took up the appointment of the Chair in 1981 and became Head of School from July 1982.

The focus of this new way of thinking about and teaching law was a critical one—of understanding ‘why’, not just ‘what’ about the law. It rode on the wave of the law in action and law in context movements. It was the modern, pragmatic approach to legal education and Jack embraced it.

But it also had a more radical edge, influenced to a considerable extent by the ‘Critical Legal Studies’ movement in the United States of the 1960s.[21] (Its adherents were known as the ‘crits’). Weisbrot and Chesterman explained that, ‘[i]n the newer law schools, in particular, the traditional underpinnings of the common law, and of bourgeois law in general, were assailed by Marxists and other political radicals’.[22] This movement also distanced itself from the practice of law.

Macquarie was one of those newer law schools reflected here. Some of this was good—in rethinking the curriculum; rethinking the way that law was taught; seeing academics as potential influencers of change in the interests of social justice. Some of it was bad; and, at its worst, execrable, when the academic became political and the political was intolerant in the extreme.

For Jack, the possibility of a collegial heterogeneous academic environment was pulled apart. Jack would have been seen as a ‘bit of a leftie’.[23] And for someone of more liberal inclinations, he was thrown into an uncomfortable position, and categorised as in a ‘traditional’ camp rather than a ‘critical’ one—the labels that the review of the law school in the mid-1980s used.[24]

The two years I spent at Macquarie, 1983–1984,[25] were in the time of the ‘troubles’. The ‘troubles’ concerned an attempt to divide a house against itself. There was a ‘right’ and a ‘left’. The ‘right’ was accused of being ‘black-letter’; the ‘left’ of theory distant from practice.[26]

I witnessed at first hand the troubles at Macquarie at the time. I was propelled into the midst of it in my second year as an academic, still a Tutor, when I was elected to chair the school meetings. On reflection, again, it is a testament to my early confidence—and naïveté—when this did not strike me as odd. Why would one of, perhaps the, most junior people in a divided faculty be elected to chair the school meetings? Bizarre. Perhaps it was an assumption that a young woman, whose career may have depended on the goodwill of her peers, might have been a useful and malleable pawn to have in such an important role. This never occurred to me. Naïve, as I said. And I took it seriously. I acquired and studied, cover-to-cover, all the books on meeting practice I could. When I was challenged to give reasons for a ruling, I knew I didn’t have to—even when a leader of the ‘crits’ came to my office after a particular ruling he didn’t like, and standing over me,  encouraged me, in soothing devil-speak, to give reasons.

In preparation for my lecture tonight I wrote down my recollections of specific episodes of that period that I found deeply troubling, but I will leave them as notes and not darken my presentation with them this evening.

In so many ways the division was not really about law, or even the approach to legal education. All those who came to Macquarie as academics were committed to doing things differently from other law schools of their own experiences. It was really about power, masked in the language of philosophical divisions.[27]

Jack became dispirited, despondent, and angry. It wore him down. He lost ‘his initial optimism’ and in August 1984 Jack declared himself unable to continue, offering to resign.[28] Jack took time out. He chaired the Committee of Review of Private Overseas Student Policy from 1983–84 and was a Visiting Professor at the UNSW in 1984.

The law school underwent a review, triggered finally by the ‘climactic episode’ surrounding the filling of a third chair in law in 1984, although the review was located within the ‘ordinary round of reviews of Schools and Centres’ within the University.[29] The first meeting of the review committee was held on 16 April 1985. The Final Report was delivered in February 1987. (In between these dates, Professor John Peden died, in November 1985.)

Jack was Head of School at the time and made a very detailed submission with 86 recommendations. He asked that it be considered an individual submission.

Beyond the University there was also a national review of law schools, led by Professor Dennis Pearce of the ANU, under the aegis of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission (CTEC). The Pearce report recommended that Macquarie law school either be phased out or radically restructured—linked to the identification of some of the law school’s staff with the critical legal studies movement.[30] Some clearly regarded Macquarie’s law school as a basket case.[31]

By July 1987 Jack had had enough. He went on leave, never to return to the school. He leapt at the opportunity in 1987 to become a full-time Commissioner of the ALRC. But before leaving this chapter in his life, he wrote an article in which he set out some of his frustrations and feelings about legal education. It was entitled, ‘Babies and Bathwater: Tradition or Progress in Legal Scholarship and Legal Education?’.[32] It was a scholarly piece,[33] getting a lot off his chest, and containing a simple message:

To discard the formalist and positivist contribution to legal scholarship and legal education entirely is to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Moreover, it may discard the points of contact with practice which makes legal scholarship a valuable avenue for the expansion of understanding of society.[34]

Jack’s final comments embody his views, and principles about legal education:

The law schools, and legal education, need to change and to keep changing. Similarly, approaches to legal scholarship, and scholarly values themselves, need to change and to keep changing. The world is a practical place. Theory and practice need to be combined if any beneficial change is to result from what law students learn as a result of the exposure to legal scholarship in the course of legal education. The law school, therefore, is one place where theories can become concrete, with real value both to legal scholarship and the practising profession.[35]

I went back to Macquarie as Head of the Division of Law in November 1999. The then Vice-Chancellor, Di Yerbury AO, had overseen a separation of the law school staff—indeed something that Jack had in desperation proposed,[36] sending the remnant of the ‘critical’ group and its supporters to the Division of Arts, and bringing the Business Law Department from the Economics Division to the Law School. I accepted the appointment with my eyes wide open.

I knew that the scars ran deep. Some were still deeply traumatised by their experiences of the years of the troubles. What I described to myself as ‘land mines’ were put in my way, but, having my early baptism of fire, I saw them for what they were and stepped around them. Building morale, recruiting staff and nurturing them, developing (and often repairing) relations with the legal profession—and letting time do its work is how I went about things. I also felt that just staying there for long enough, being consistent, affirming, open and transparent, would help to achieve these things. (Others were also getting closer to retirement—at least in the context of defined benefits superannuation schemes). I also knew it had to be about commitment—personal and professional.[37]

I am very proud of the fact that, in the rating study of major disciplines in Australian universities conducted by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, published in November 2006, Macquarie Law was rated as the ‘highest of the non-Go8 universities’.[38] It was a peer review study of academic standing using both qualitative and quantitative measures.[39] More than anything, I feel that I had repaid the faith that Jack, and John Peden, had placed in me over twenty years earlier. I hope that they would have been proud, too.

Jack as Law Reformer

Jack was appointed to the Australian Law Reform Commission for a three year period, 1987-1990. He led the inquiry into Product Liability, conducted together with the Victorian Law Reform Commission. He was also a part-time Commissioner from June 1990 to December 1992. Later he also served as a Commissioner of the state body, the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, for two years (1997–1998).

Michael Kirby said that he ‘watched with admiration’ Jack’s work as the Commissioner in charge of a number of ALRC inquiries, and his participation in others.[40]

As a scholar who had focused much of his research and published works on consumer law, it is not surprising that Jack was the person to lead the product liability inquiry at the ALRC. His law in action principle became law for the future, expressing sound principles of consumer protection.

But it was an inquiry that attracted some criticism. For Jack it must have been a sense of déjà vu.

In a review of the ALRC in 1994, conducted by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, there was a section on criticisms of the Commission, of which there was not much, focusing on three references, all in the area of business and commercial law—one of which was product liability.[41] The Business Council of Australia was ‘the most ardent critic’, to the point it called for the ‘abolition of the Commission’.[42] It was said that the Commission ‘did not consult effectively’ and that it ‘failed to consider the cost implications of its proposals’.[43] (These are familiar objections from those who may disagree with conclusions in just about any area). The Commission countered these objections by providing details of its ‘exhaustive public consultation process’ and of an independent economic analysis of its proposals.[44] Jack also put in a submission, as he had been the Commissioner in charge of the reference concluded five years earlier. He considered that the criticisms were made ‘because the Commission did not accept entirely the [Business Council of Australia’s] views’ and pointed out that the Commission ‘had bent over backwards to obtain and to consider properly the views of businesses on its proposals’.[45]

In the same way that he expressed his concerns about his experiences at Macquarie, in the form of an article, Jack also wrote about his experiences in product liability law reform in an article published in 1989, in the Bond Law Review: ‘Reforming Australian Product Liability Laws: Processes and Problems of Law Reform’.[46] Once again it embodies some level of personal catharsis. It is a measured, thoughtful and very scholarly piece, carefully setting out the processes and the principled approach of law reform—and especially the importance of consultation.[47]

The article uses the product liability inquiry as a way to illustrate the broader dynamics of law reform process (as the earlier piece used the Macquarie struggles to illustrate a broader debate about legal education). But it also was a vehicle to express some of the evident challenges he had to face as the commissioner. The Commissions had decided to avoid ‘indeterminacies’ in language by not using the words ‘unsafe’ or ‘defective’ in legislation. They then took this out to consultation and, with it, ‘the problem of persuading the public that the proposals would work’. This, as he said, ‘proved to be difficult’.[48]

Speaking in 2006, Jack said that ‘business and insurance interests adopted a number of the arguments that had been put forward by the “tort reform” movement in the United States’,[49] where the question of tort liability had become highly politicised.[50] He also pointed out that, although the ALRC’s recommendations in that report were not enacted, the Commonwealth Parliament did not do nothing: amending the Trade Practices Act in 1992 to introduce a statutory code for dealing with defective goods laws based on a Directive of the European Communities, which imposed significant liability on the manufacturers of goods which could be shown to be defective.[51] Law reform implementation is often like this, necessarily taking a long view.[52] And the delicacy of stakeholder management is one that every Commissioner appreciates—even though not everyone is a fan. (The Copyright inquiry, completed in 2014, had to manage similarly juxtaposed stakeholder groups).[53]

Both at Macquarie and, it seems, at the ALRC, although less so, Jack was challenged. The way he responded in both cases, as seen in the articles he wrote embodying his concerns, shows him as a man of great thoughtfulness, reflection and, indeed, of great principle.

Jack at Wollongong

Jack’s appointment to the University of Wollongong was a real joy for him. It got him back into legal education in a way that restored his faith, as it were. He could make a difference—and he did.

Jack had been involved in the gestation process, serving on the committee of the University that was to advise on the establishment of a legal studies course.[54] This work came to fruition and led into the setting up of a full LLB program. Jack was invited to be the Foundation Dean. Kirby described this as his ‘second major public post’, a position he held for five years. It is not surprising, though, that Jack was initially reluctant. As he said, after his experience at Macquarie, he had ‘vowed never to take on the leadership of an academic unit again’.[55] He had been happy to serve on the Steering Committee for the new Faculty, but it took some persuasion to get him to take on the Dean’s role. But it is then that serendipity kicked in, as it usually always does in life. He was invited to speak at a conference held at the Northbeach Hotel, which made Jack realise that ‘Wollongong had its advantages’. He was also extremely impressed by the ‘organisation and dynamism of the University’. As it turned out, the selection committee for the Dean, as he stated: ‘was very wise’, and chose him.[56] Jack never regretted taking on the role, a position he held for five years, from 1990 to 1995.

He was able to put into practice the good (and to learn from the bad) lessons of his Macquarie days—and to realise his own vision for legal education. The focus was

to offer a course on developing in the students the capacity for independent learning, to learn to understand both the technical rules of law and the social context in which law operated, and to develop a critical approach to received knowledge.

What he had in mind was also to make up for what he perceived as where Macquarie had gone wrong:

Like UNSW, Macquarie also sought to differentiate itself from more traditional law teaching, looking at the function of law rather than the traditional textbook categories. Macquarie Law School was also committed to the study of law in a social context. The history and philosophy of law, rather than being an add-on at the end of a 4 or 5 year course, was fundamental, and was the first subject studied by law students. In theory this was an excellent idea, though in practice, the nature of law as a body of living practices tended to become ignored at the expense of social theory, and students, who were interested in education which was also professional training, became dissatisfied.[57]

Jack built in a clinical element, to the extent that he could, reflecting his commitment to the principle of ‘law in action’ rather than just ‘law in the books’: ‘skills’ subjects integrated into the curriculum and a subject on ‘Legal Profession and Australian Society’, combining theory and practice.[58]

Jack’s experiences at Wollongong purged some of the angst of earlier years. Speaking reflectively at the 10th anniversary of the law school, he said:

The thing I noticed about staff were the friendly relations between us. We actually liked working with each other. There were regular staff meetings, and a degree of informal socialisation, but the only regular formal gatherings were the annual ‘retreats’—originally at the Jamberoo Valley Inn, where we developed long-term strategies. We were united in seeking a common goal. For the first time in my career, my colleagues were also friends.

Jack was happy. He was fulfilled. He had met Sue. His principles of legal education had found a true home—and at its 10th, he was able to say, ‘I have always been proud of the Law faculty, and the more I see of its products [its graduates], the prouder I am’.[59]

Jack as Judge

In 1998 Jack was appointed to the District Court of New South Wales. I can just imagine him saying, with a wry giggle, ‘What fun!’ An appointment like Jack’s was quite unusual. As David Weisbrot remarked, it was ‘a rare honour for a career academic to be appointed to a famously busy trial court’.[60]

While his research and scholarly output had been in areas of civil jurisdiction, Jack wanted to extend his horizons by embracing the criminal side of the District Court’s work. As Michael Kirby remarked, ‘[h]e called for criminal trials and soon won the plaudits of the observant practitioners for his just and efficient conduct of complex criminal trials’. Virginia Bell also testified in her Jack Goldring Lecture to his aptitude and success in his judicial office: ‘Jack enjoyed moving from the empyrean heights of the Academy to the daily grind of administering justice, much of it in the exercise of the Court’s criminal jurisdiction’.[61]

Jack was also chosen to represent District and County Courts in Australia on the Council of the Judicial College of Australia.[62] And in 2007 he was appointed a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law, whose Fellows are drawn from all parts of the legal community, including academia, the practising profession (including private and public sectors), and the judiciary.[63] Jack’s experiences and contributions spread across the range of the Academy’s interests. He was a natural choice as one of the 35 Foundation Fellows.

For Jack his role as a judge was, in many ways, a culmination of his philosophising about law and legal education. It was, at last, for him, a metamorphosis into ‘law in action’. He held judicial office until his death in 2009.

Jack the Man

What do people remember of him?

His giggle. His sense of humour. His warmth. That he was a Quiz Kid in the 1950s (the recent television show, Australian Spelling Bee, brought this back to mind)—my sister was one (in the television version), so was Neville Wran, and my colleague at Macquarie Professor Alanna Nobbs, née Conlan). Michael Kirby describes this in this way: ‘Intolerably clever school children answered amazingly difficult questions on general knowledge’. He also said that ‘[t]he star of the show was undoubtedly John Goldring’.[64]

Professor Jill McKeough said that Jack was ‘so receptive to new ideas and thoughts and theories. He embraced feminism, and although he came from an age and a generation when these ideas were being developed, he was a man thought and implemented such ideas and theories.’

Kirby remembers Jack’s pipe. I remember his beard. While I have chosen to reflect Sir Thomas More in the title of my talk, I always thought of Jack as a bit Henry VIII-ish. He was a little rotund—until cancer and its treatments took their inevitable toll on his waistline. Indeed when I first saw him after the first round of treatment for his lymphatic cancer, I was struck by how thin he had become, but also that he was not maudlin at all, notwithstanding this dreadful disease—the same ‘good old Jack’.

Jack loved good food, and to eat and cook with friends. Virginia Bell said that Jack was in many respects ‘larger than life and pre-eminently a man of goodwill’. And he loved to read—the Quiz Kid never left him. Colleen Chesterman wrote in the obituary of Jack published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 30 October 2009, with the heading ‘Fine mind sharpened by a big heart’:

His sense of humour was enormous and infectious, and there was nothing he loved more than a good laugh. He loved making appalling puns and hearing his friends groan as an irrepressible chuckle bubbled out of him.

Closing comments

Jack was a man of principle. His was no ‘Utopia’, but a life of lived principles. He would not have claimed to be a saint, nor a martyr—and he was hardly a hair shirt man—but in every chapter of his life he articulated and lived by commitment to law in action, not in the books. His legacy in legal education is writ large at the University of Wollongong. His legacy in life is shared by those whom his generosity of spirit touched and who hold his memory in warm affection in their hearts.

Robert Bolt drew the title of his 1960 play from words penned about Thomas More by Robert Whittington in 1520. I will offer it as my own personal eulogy for Jack: an extraordinary scholar, an extraordinary judge and an extraordinary man. For ‘More’ I have substituted ‘Jack Goldring’:

Jack Goldring [was] a man of an angel’s wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvellous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A man for all seasons.[65]

Vale, Jack.

*              My Professorial Title belongs to Macquarie University, from which I am on leave for the duration of my appointment at the ALRC. The views in this presentation are mine alone, and do not reflect views of the ALRC.

[1]              Published as Michael Kirby, ‘JL Goldring, legal education and a most unusual occupation’ (2014) 38 Australian Bar Review 226.

[2]              Drawn from the (sadly) ubiquitous reference tool, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_More (accessed 6 October 2015).

[3]              Written with Peter Goldsworthy and Jane Levine in 1978, and published as part of a set of volumes together comprising ‘Cases and Materials on Commercial Transactions’ by the Law Book Company.

[4]              John and Judy Mackinolty (eds), A Century Down Town—Sydney University Law School’s First Hundred Years (1991), 226.

[5]              M Chesterman and D Weisbrot, ‘Legal Scholarship in Australia’ (1987) 50 Mod L Rev 709, 711.

[6]              Ibid, 712.

[7]              As he recounts in John Goldring, ‘Conception, birth and infancy’, 10th anniversary of the Faculty of Law, University of Wollongong, 7 December 2001, 4.

[8]              Ibid.

[9]              Michael Kirby, ‘JL Goldring, legal education and a most unusual occupation’ (2014) 38 Australian Bar Review 226, 231.

[10]             Ibid.

[11]             William Twining, Blackstone’s Tower: The English Law School (1994), describes the ‘law in its social context’ as ‘a new orthodoxy’ in the UK: 30.

[12]             Ibid, 37. See also R Collier, ‘“We’re All Socio-Legal Now?”  Legal Education, Scholarship and the “Global Knowledge Economy”—Reflections on the UK Experience’ (2004) 26 Syd L Rev 503 and the wealth of other sources cited there. 

[13]             In relation to the US, this was described by John Henry Schlegel as ‘the professionalization’ of the staff in ‘Between the Harvard Founders and the American Legal Realists: The Professionalization of the American Law Professor’ (1985) 35 Journal of Legal Education 311.

[14]             See, eg, Nikolas J James, ‘A Brief History of Critique in Australian Legal Education’ (2000) 24 Melb Uni L Rev 965.

[15]             A good overview of the Australian pattern of development is found in M Chesterman and D Weisbrot, ‘Legal Scholarship in Australia’ (1987) 50 Mod L Rev 709; M Keyes and R Johnstone, ‘Changing Legal Education” Rhetoric, Reality, and Prospects for the Future’ (2000) 26 Syd L Rev 537. There were tensions that came along with this shift, exemplified in the conflict between those who wanted the LLB curriculum to operate ‘entirely within the tradition of liberal university scholarship’ and those who accepted the role as pre-professional training, even increasingly ‘contextualised’: Chesterman and Weisbrot, 720.

[16]             The list is included on the website of the Council of the Australian Law Schools: http://www.cald.asn.au/slia/lawschools.cfm (accessed 5 October 2015).

[17]             John Goldring, ‘Conception, birth and infancy’, 10th anniversary of the Faculty of Law, University of Wollongong, 7 December 2001, 5.

[18]             The experiences of the formative days at UNSW are captured well in Marion Dixon, Thirty Up: the story of the UNSW Law School 1971–2001 (2001).

[19]             John Goldring, ‘Conception, birth and infancy’, 10th anniversary of the Faculty of Law, University of Wollongong, 7 December 2001, 6.

[20]             Ibid, 6. The teaching materials generated in consequence were considerable.

[21]             See, eg, NJ James, ‘A Brief History of Critique in Australian Legal Education’ (2000) 24 Melb Uni L Rev 965, 969–972.

[22]             M Chesterman and D Weisbrot, ‘Legal Scholarship in Australia’, (1987) 50 Mod L Rev 709, 715.

[23]             Certainly from the conservative perspective of someone like Roddy Meagher writing in 1983: ‘In the whole of Australia … there are only one or two academics of any value in real property, in contracts or in torts … There are, to be sure, multitudes of academic homunculi who scribble and prattle relentlessly about such non-subjects as criminology, bail, poverty, consumerism, computers and racism. These may be dismissed from calculation: they possess neither practical skills nor legal learning. They are failed sociologists’. Quoted in NJ James, ‘A Brief History of Critique in Australian Legal Education’ (2000) 24 Melb Uni L Rev 965, 971.

[24]             Report of the Committee to Review the School of Law, Final Report, February 1987.

[25]             I accepted appointment at the University of New South Wales in 1984. Others from Macquarie joined me there, including Graham Greenleaf and Brendan Edgeworth. Collectively we were described as ‘refugees. ’A curious parallel is the description of those who left the more radical department of ‘General Philosophy’ at the University of Sydney to join the Department of Traditional and Modern Philosophy at the University of Sydney as ‘the first wave of “boat people”’: James Franklin, ‘The Sydney Philosophy Disturbances’ (1999) 43(4) Quadrant 16.

[26]             Liberality of Opportunity, 278. The Foundation Professor and Head of the School of Law at Macquarie, Peter Nygh, although having established an early consensus in favour of an innovative curriculum, was deeply troubled by the divisiveness that emerged. It reminded him of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s—and these were bad memories. Nygh left before the end of his six-year term, to take up an appointment as a judge of the Family Court, in which capacity he served until 1993: Liberality of Opportunity, 279. It was Peter’s resignation that led to the appointment of Jack in 1981 to the chair he vacated and to be Head of School from July 1982.

[27]             The trend was not confined to law schools. It happened in English departments: see, eg, Andrew Riemer’s account of his experiences in the English Department of the University of Sydney, in Sandstone Gothic: Confessions of an Accidental Academic, 1998. It happened in Economics Departments: see, eg, ‘From “Economist” to ‘Economiser: 1975–1980’, in WF Connell, GE Sherington, BH Fletcher, C Turney and U Bygott, Australia’s First: A History of the University of Sydney, Vol 2 1940–1990, ch 10, 385–388. See also ‘Radical economics: The Political Economy dispute at Sydney University’, http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/hindsight/shadow-boxing-abbott-battle-against-marxists-at-sydney-uni/4935686 (accessed 6 October 2015). I remember the demonstrations in 1976 and the chalked slogans in front of Fisher Library in defence of Political Economy. It happened in Philosophy Departments: see, eg, ‘Philosophy Again Unsettled’, in Australia’s First, 388–389; James Franklin, ‘The Sydney Philosophy Disturbances’(1999) 43(4) Quadrant 16.

[28]             Liberality of Opportunity, 279.

[29]             Report of the Committee to Review the School of Law, Final Report, February 1987, 3.

[30]             Nickolas James, A Brief History of Critique in Australian Legal Education’ (2000) 24 Melbourne University Law Review 965, 974.

[31]             The rest of the story can be found elsewhere: Liberality of Opportunity, 305–311. See also Nickolas James, A Brief History of Critique in Australian Legal Education’ (2000) 24 Melbourne University Law Review 965, 973–975.

[32]             (1987) 17 UWALR 216.

[33]             In an article written as a critical response to Jack’s article, it is described as ‘a Cook’s tour of astonishing proportions’: Valerie Kerruish, ‘Barefoot in the Kitchen: A Response to Jack Goldring’ (1988) 18 UWALR 167, 168.

[34]             (1987) 17 UWALR 216, 217.

[35]             Ibid, 256.

[36]             Liberality of Opportunity, 284.

[37]             Part of that rebuilding was to celebrate the Law School’s thirty year anniversary in 2005. I marked this with a book, retro: 30 years of Macquarie Law 1975–2005 (with JK Shedden). I deliberately chose a style that was not the institutional one of Liberality of Opportunity, but from the students’ point of view. Among other things, it provided an entirely different insight onto the ‘troubles’.

[38]             Ross Williams and Nina Van Dyke, Rating Major Disciplines in Australian Universities: Perceptions and Reality, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, November 2006, 6.

[39]             Respondents were asked to rate the academic standing of the discipline in each university world-wide and then to rank the universities on the basis of academic standing: ibid, 3.

[40]             Kirby notes that Jack participated in the reports on Grouped Proceedings (ALRC 46); Product Liability (ALRC 51); Multiculturalism and the Law (ALRC 57); Choice of Law Rules (ALRC 58) and Personal Property Securities (ALRC 64): (2014) 38 Australian Bar Review 228.

[41]             House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs—Parliament of Australia, Law Reform—the Challenge Continues: a Report on the Inquiry into the Role and Function of the Law Reform Commission of Australia (1994), [3.7.9].

[42]             Ibid, [3.7.10].

[43]             Ibid, [3.7.11].

[44]             Ibid, [3.7.12].

[45]             Ibid, [3.7.12].

[46]             John Goldring, ‘Reforming Australian Product Liability Laws: Processes and Problems of Law Reform’, (1989) 1(2) Bond Law Review 193.

[47]             Described by Michael Kirby as ‘participatory law reform’: ibid, 200.

[48]             Ibid, 210.

[49]             Jack Goldring, ‘Australian lawyers and Social Change—30 years later’, 25.

[50]             As he had set out in the article in 1989: John Goldring, ‘Reforming Australian Product Liability Laws: Processes and Problems of Law Reform’, (1989) 1(2) Bond Law Review 193, 211.

[51]             Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) pt VA: ‘Australian lawyers and Social Change—30 years later’, 25.

[52]             I include discussion of this in: ‘Re-imagining law reform—Michael Kirby’s Vision, Human Rights and the Australian Law Reform Commission in the 21st Century’, Michael Kirby Lecture 2015, Southern Cross University, 9 July 2015. See, in particular, the section headed ‘Pebbles in a Pond’.

[53]             Copyright and the Digital Economy (ALRC Report 122, 2014).

[54]             Kirby describes this period well: 229–230. Jack also wrote about it in ‘Conception, birth and infancy’, 10th anniversary of the Faculty of Law, University of Wollongong, 7 December 2001.

[55]             Ibid, 3.

[56]             Ibid, 3.

[57]             Ibid, 6.

[58]             Ibid, 9–10.

[59]             Ibid, 16.

[60]             Obituary by David Weisbrot, published at http://www.staffnews.mq.edu.au/past_issues/past_stories/2009/macquarie_remembers2 (accessed 7 October 2015). See also Michael Kirby, ‘JL Goldring, legal education and a most unusual occupation’ (2014) 38 Australian Bar Review 226, 230. In her Jack Goldring lecture, Virginia Bell also mentions the unusualness of such appointments: ‘Jack Goldring Memorial Lecture’, University of Wollongong, 31 October 2014.

[61]             Virginia Bell, ‘Jack Goldring Memorial Lecture’, University of Wollongong, 31 October 2014, 2.

[62]             Michael Kirby, ‘JL Goldring, legal education and a most unusual occupation’ (2014) 38 Australian Bar Review 226, 230.

[63]             See the Academy’s website: http://www.academyoflaw.org.au/home (accessed 7 October 2015). The idea for the Academy came from a recommendation of the ALRC in the 200 report, Managing Justice: a review of the federal justice system (ALRC 89).

[64]             Michael Kirby, ‘JL Goldring, legal education and a most unusual occupation’ (2014) 38 Australian Bar Review 226, 226.

[65]             Cited by Marvin O’Connell, ‘A Man for all Seasons: An Historian’s Demur’, Catholic Education Resource Center, at http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/controversy/politics-and-the-church/a-man-for-all-seasons-an-historian-s-demur.html (accessed 24 September 2015).