A Mirror to the Man: Reflecting on Justice William Deane: A Private Man in Public Office

31 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2011

Date Written: 2011


Sir William Deane was a member of the High Court of Australia during one of its most creative periods, from 1982 to 1995. His decisions displayed a notable commitment to social justice and a willingness to extend the constitutional protection of human rights. These tendencies were particularly prominent during the Mason Court years (1987-1995), manifesting in decisions including Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (1992) 175 CLR 1; Dietrich v The Queen (1992) 177 CLR 292; Leeth v Commonwealth (1992) 174 CLR 455; and the political communication cases of 1992 and 1994. Although his judgments displayed a clear vision of his judicial responsibilities, Deane adopted a strict extra-judicial silence regarding the principles that informed his judicial philosophy. However, as Australia's 22nd Governor-General Deane was more open regarding his personal beliefs and their influence on his performance of those duties. This article utilises Deane's public statements as Governor-General to shed light on the foundations of his judicial philosophy. In particular, as Governor-General Deane drew on his Christian faith to support his commitment to highlight the cause of indigenous reconciliation and the plight of the disadvantaged in Australia. This article argues that Deane's spiritual convictions, as articulated in his vice-regal statements, can also be regarded as underpinning his understanding of his role as High Court Justice.

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Heather, A Mirror to the Man: Reflecting on Justice William Deane: A Private Man in Public Office (2011). Adelaide Law Review, Vol. 32, No. 1, 2011, ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 11-26, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1918534

Heather Roberts (Contact Author)

ANU College of Law ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

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