Our 90 year narrative
The UWA Law School was established in 1927. It is the oldest Law School in Western Australia and the fifth oldest in Australia.
Over the past 90 years we have gone from strength to strength, and have a long and proud history of excellence in legal education, research and community service. We are immensely proud of the achievements of our graduates, staff and students.
Our rich history over the decades has included many highlights, which we are compiling into a timeline. You may even be able to find your own story detailed within. If not, we invite you to share it with us. Check back in soon to view the Law School timeline.
Over the decades, we’ve produced graduates who have become influential and notable figures in Australian law and politics. Here’s just a small sample of some of our inspirational alumni who have gone on to make a real difference to the world around them.
It’s no surprise that Profiles in Diversity Journal named Sarah a Woman Worth Watching. The Senior Partner at David Polk & Wardell, she was also the first female president of the Blackstone Society, the first recipient of the Robert Menzies Scholarship and a member of the first UWA international Jessup Moot Team.
Sarah says: "One of my happy memories is representing UWA, for the first time in the Law School's history, in the Jessup Moot Competition at Monash University. Through my education, I learned debating skills that prepared me well for a career 12,000 miles away on Wall Street in New York City."
Robert started out in the legal community in 1972 and commenced practice as a barrister in 1983. He went on to be a Federal Court judge, Chancellor at Edith Cowan University and President of the National Native Title tribunal before being appointed the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. He is now also an Adjunct Professor at the UWA Law School.
Sue has had a varied and impactful career, and was awarded an Order of Australia in 1993 for her work with Aboriginal people and community affairs. She has achieved many firsts in her career, including being the first Aboriginal person to head a government department in Western Australia, when she was appointed Commissioner for Aboriginal Planning. She was also WA’s first Aboriginal magistrate and first full-time children’s court magistrate; not to mention one of the first commissioners appointed to the board of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC).
Sue says: "What I remember is the quality of the teaching staff, both full-time and part-time, and the high standards of the three deans over the eight years of my part-time study. I appreciated the access students had to so many eminent scholars. Nothing appeared to be too much trouble!"
Malcolm James McCusker AC CVO QC was Governor of Western Australia from July 1, 2011 until June 30, 2014. He has a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Western Australia and is a Queen’s Counsel. Mr McCusker is well known for his successful representation of wrongfully convicted persons in a number of high-profile cases. He has been Patron of more than 100 community organisations and is currently a Director of the Minderoo Foundation, Director of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and is Chairman of the McCusker Charitable Foundation, a family foundation, which distributes substantial funds each year to worthy charities.
Malcolm says: “I was undecided as to whether to pursue a career in Law but the lectures by people like Burt QC (later Sir Francis Burt), Sir Ronald Wilson, Sir John Toohey and Professor McCall gave me the inspiration to pursue a career in Law. They were able to combine theory with practice in an exciting way.”
Tonya completed a Law degree at The University of Western Australia in 1994. She was previously Business Development Manager of the Leeuwin Youth Development Foundation and then spent five years as Business Development Manager for the Chamber of Commerce. Tonya is a Trustee of Telethon, an Alternate Director with the Minderoo Foundation, Director of Celebrate WA and the Administrator of the McCusker Charitable Foundation which works closely with more than 100 community and charitable organisations.
Tonya says: “My UWA Law degree provided me with a great general knowledge. Whilst I did not end up practicing Law, the degree nevertheless gave me the skills and confidence to pursue other work and life opportunities.”
Noongar woman Krista McMeeken grew up in Esperance and relocated to Perth in 2008 to study a Bachelor of Laws at UWA. Krista practiced as a corporate commercial lawyer for five and a half years before taking a role as the Principal Policy Officer at the office of the Commissioner for Children and Young People. Krista devotes her spare time to mentoring youth, as well as generating and supporting new ideas for the success and sustainability of our communities.
Krista says: “Two units – Aboriginal Peoples and the Law; and International Humanitarian Law – opened my eyes to the international context we live in and gave depth to the understandings I already had about the impact of the law on our Aboriginal peoples. I understood more about the importance of cultural exchange in the development of our legal system.”
Degrees in Arts and Law from The University of Western Australia have enabled David Ritter to pursue environmental justice on a global scale. From fighting for Indigenous rights in WA to becoming CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, David’s mission has always been to promote justice and sustainability.
David says: "One of my fondest memories is when visiting Canadian lecturer Allan C Hutchinson of Osgoode Hall came into the lecture theatre and said in his deep accent, 'the law has too often been made by those on the river bank, not those who are drowning'."
Michael Sheldrickis Global Advocacy and Policy Director at Global Citizen, where he oversees international advocacy campaigns in support of universal sanitation, access to education, gender equality and polio eradication. He holds degrees in law and political science from the University of Western Australia and was 2013 Young Western Australian of the Year. In 2017, Michael was named by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth as a finalist for Young Commonwealth Person of the Year.
Michael says: “As a student, I always appreciated the emphasis that many of my lecturers placed on the fact that earning a law degree isn't just useful to pursuing a traditional legal career. It can be an entry point into many other interesting careers. This encouraged me to seek out internships and opportunities elsewhere and not just at law firms. I wouldn't be where I am today without this encouragement.”
After an illustrious career in federal politics, Stephen has returned to The University of Western Australia as a Winthrop Professor of International Law. He brings to the role experience as Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Trade and Minister for Defence.
Stephen says: "UWA Law taught me the need for clarity of thought, not just about what the law was at that point in time, but whether it and, as a consequence, society could be changed for the better."
After graduating from the UWA Law School, Bob went on to be Prime Minister of Australia for eight years from 1983-1991. Prior to this he was President of the Australian Trade Council Union and a Member of the House of Representatives. As a Rhodes Scholar and UWA baseball team player, he was an active member of the University community.
Ben has spent the majority of his career working in Western Australian politics. His roles have included Member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly for Victoria Park, Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Education. He was most recently appointed to the role of Treasurer in the 2017 State Elections and is the first Aboriginal Treasurer in Australian state or federal government.
Carmel commenced working for the Australian Attorney-General’s Department in 1977 before being articled as a legal clerk in the 1980s. In 1987 she became a partner in the firm later known as Corrs Chambers Westgarth, and took silk in 1997, appointed as a Queen’s Counsel. Carmel was a barrister until 2001, and her appointment to the bench as a judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
90 Reasons to Celebrate
90 Reasons to Celebrate
Thousands of students have graduated from the UWA Law School since its opening in 1927 – are you one of them? If so, we would love to hear stories or fond memories of your time at the School and the path you have followed since graduation.
Help Shape our Future
The UWA Law School has spent the last 90 years firmly establishing itself as one of the country’s most successful and respected training grounds for legal excellence. We now invite you to send us your suggestions for new initiatives and improvements to help us reach even greater heights as we head towards our centenary in 2027.
Law School 90th Anniversary Events
To celebrate 90 years of the UWA Law School, we’re presenting a number of special events with law as their theme.
An official launch of our 90 year celebrations, this event will feature the best of the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery and give attendees the opportunity to mingle with Law School graduates, University staff and Executive and other VIP guest.
Art in Law in Art
Art in Law in Art is an interdisciplinary conference investigating the broad themes of how law sees visual art, and how visual art sees law. Papers from any discipline may engage with any aspect that explores these general themes, and may embrace a broad definition of both visual art and law.
The conference opens on 4 July at PICA'S When The Sky Fell exhibition.