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.

Law Timeline

  • 1996 (Deans)
    Ian Campbell becomes Dean

  • 1948 ()
    The first additional of the UWA Law Review

    The first additional of the UWA Law Review, the oldest University Law Journal in Australia is published.

  • 1965 (Graduates)
    Peter Dowding graduates

    Future Premier of Western Australia, Peter Dowding, graduates.

  • 1974 (Graduates)
    Wayne Martin graduates

    Future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of WA, Wayne Martin, graduates.

  • 1981 (Graduates)
    Jeremy Allanson graduates

    Jeremy Allanson, future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, graduates.

  • ()
    Law of the Whadjuk Noongar

    The UWA Law School is situated in the homeland of the Whadjuk Noongar people and is a relative newcomer to a place…

    Read more

  • 1988 (Significant Events; Graduates)
    First Indigenous students graduate

    The first Indigenous students graduate (Beau Hanbury, Eric Hayward, and David Maclean).

  • 1992 (Curriculum)
    Phillip Jessup International Law Mooting

    Law students begin competing in the Phillip Jessup International Law Mooting Competition.

  • 1977 (Graduates)
    Dominic Martino graduates

    Future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, Dominic Martino, graduates.

  • 1984 (Graduates)
    Bruno Fiannaca graduates

    Future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, Bruno Fiannaca, graduates.

  • 1964 (Graduates)
    Daryl Williams graduates

    Daryl Williams, future Commonwealth Attorney General, graduates.

  • 1986 (Significant Events)
    Women graduates outnumber men

    For the first time, women graduates outnumber men, a trend which continues to the present day.

  • 1959 (Graduates)
    Kevin Parker graduates

    Kevin Parker, future Solicitor General and Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, graduates.

  • 1977 (Graduates)
    Le Miere graduates

    Le Miere, future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, graduates.

  • 1927 (Significant Events)
    UWA Law School is born

    The UWA Law School is born with Professor Frank Beasley appointed as Dean.

  • 1967 (Graduates)
    Antoinette Kennedy graduates

    Antoinette Kennedy, who would go on to be the first female judge of the District Court, graduates.

  • 1979 (Deans)
    Anthony Dickey becomes Dean

  • 1997 (Graduates)
    Christian Porte graduates

    Christian Porte, future Attorney General of Western Australia, graduates.

  • 1936 (Significant Events)
    The UWA Law School moves to Winthrop Hall

  • 1972 (Curriculum)
    Quota for entry into law is introduced

    A quota for entry into law is introduced and the degree is restructured into a three year Bachelor of Jurisprudence...

    Read more

  • 1930 (Significant Events; Graduates)
    Enid Russell graduates

    Enid Russell, the first woman admitted to Legal Practice in WA, graduates.

  • 1971 (Graduates)
    Robert French graduates

    The first Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia from WA and future UWA Chancellor, Robert French, graduates.

  • 1975 (Deans)
    IWP McCall becomes Dean

  • 1984 (Deans)
    Louis Proksch becomes Dean

  • 1940 (Graduates)
    Francis Burt graduates

    Francis Burt, future Chief Justice of Western Australia, and then Governor, graduates.

  • 1952 (Curriculum)
    The curriculum is reviewed

    The curriculum is reviewed for the first time since 1928. Roman Law is dropped and Constitutional Law is expanded.

  • 1990 (Deans)
    Stan Hotop becomes Dean

  • 2017 (Significant Events)
    UWA Law School commences its 90th Anniversary

    The UWA Law School commences its 90th Anniversary Celebrations.

  • 1949 (Graduates)
    Ronald Wilson graduates

    Ronald Wilson, the first WA Justice of the High Court of Australia, graduates.

  • 1951 (Graduates)
    Reg Withers graduates

    Future Lord Mayor of Perth, Reg Withers, graduates.

  • 2012 (Significant Events; Curriculum)
    Law School commences teaching into two majors

    The Law School commences teaching into two majors: Business Law, and Law & Society.

  • 1979 (Graduates)
    Jeremy Curthoys graduates

    Future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, Jeremy Curthoys, graduates.

  • 2010 (Deans)
    Stuart Kaye becomes Dean

  • 1984 (Graduates)
    Cheryl Edwardes graduates

    Cheryl Edwardes, who would go on to become the first female Attorney General of Western Australia, graduates.

  • 1993 (Deans)
    John Phillips becomes Dean

  • 1968 (Significant Events)
    Law Society of WA donates courtyard fountain

    The Law Society of Western Australia donates the famous courtyard fountain.

  • 2003 (Significant Events)
    UWA Law wins the Jessup Moot Competition

    The UWA Law School wins the Jessup Moot Competition.

  • 1994 (Significant Events; Curriculum)
    Pre-law program for Indigenous students

    In partnership with the School of Indigenous Studies, a pre-law program for Indigenous students is established.

  • 2002 (Graduates)
    Sue Gordon graduates

    Sue Gordon, who would go on to become the first Indigenous person to head a government department in WA, graduates.

  • 1967 (Significant Events)
    UWA Law School moves to new premises

    The UWA Law School moves to new premises, which is opened by Sir Garfield Barwick, Chief Justice of the High Court.

  • 1977 (Significant Events)
    The Law School turns 50

  • 1980 (Graduates)
    Robert Mazza graduates

    Future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, Robert Mazza, graduates.

  • 1987 (Deans)
    James O'Donovan becomes Dean

  • 1991 (Graduates)
    Jim McGinty graduates

    Jim McGinty, future Attorney General of Western Australia, graduates.

  • 2017 (Deans)
    Natalie Skead becomes Dean

    UWA Law appoints its second female Dean, Natalie Skead.

  • 1943 (Significant Events)
    UWA Law School moves into new premises

    Professor Beasley goes into active service, and Ernest Blankensee becomes the Acting Dean.

  • 1965 (Graduates)
    Ian Temby graduates

    Ian Temby, who would go on to be the First Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the First Commissioner...

    Read more

  • 1996 (Graduates)
    Ben Wyatt graduates

    Ben Wyatt, the first Indigenous person to serve as Treasurer in any Australian government, graduates.

  • 1957 (Graduates)
    Ian Viner graduates

    Ian Viner, future Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, graduates.

  • 1930 (Graduates)
    The very first students graduate

  • 1982 (Graduates)
    Sarah Beshar graduates

    The first female President of the Blackstone Society, Sarah Beshar, graduates.

  • 2000 (Deans)
    William Ford becomes Dean

  • 1951 (Graduates)
    Bob Hawke graduates

    Future Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, graduates.

  • 1960 (Graduates)
    David Malcolm graduates

    Future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of WA, David Malcolm, graduates.

  • 2010 (Significant Events)
    UWA Law School’s first female professor

    UWA Law School appoints its first female professor, Holly Cullen.

  • 1991 (Graduates)
    Robert Mitchell graduates

    Robert Mitchell, future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, graduates.

  • 1997 (Graduates)
    James Edelman graduates

    James Edelman, the fourth youngest person to be appointed as a Justice of the High Court of Australia, graduates.

  • 1960 (Graduates)
    Malcolm McCusker graduates

    Future Governor of Western Australia, Malcolm McCusker, graduates.

  • 1985 (Graduates)
    Stephen Hall graduates

    Stephen Hall, future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, graduates.

  • 1980 (Graduates)
    Carmel McLure graduates

    Carmel McLure, future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, graduates.

  • 1978 (Graduates)
    Kenneth Martin graduates

    Kenneth Martin, future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, graduates.

  • 2013 (Significant Events; Curriculum)
    LLB is abolished and a Juris Doctor is introduced

    In the biggest change to law curriculum since 1928, the LLB is abolished and a Juris Doctor is introduced.

  • 2013 (Significant Events)
    UWA law student named Young Australian of the Year

    UWA law student Akram Azimi, who fled Afghanistan as a refugee in 1999, is named Young Australian of the Year...

    Read more

  • 1962 (Graduates)
    Fred Chaney graduates

    Fred Chaney, future Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Chancellor of Murdoch University, graduates.

  • 1991 (Significant Events)
    First Masters of Laws (LLM) by coursework

    UWA Law awards its first Masters of Laws (LLM) by coursework.

  • 1976 (Deans)
    Eric Edwards becomes Dean

  • 1982 (Deans)
    Richard Harding becomes Dean

  • 2003 (Significant Events)
    The Law School celebrates 75 years

  • 1963 (Significant Events)
    Dean retires after an astonishing 37 years

    Professor Beasley retires after an astonishing 37 years as Dean, and is succeeded by Douglas Payne.

  • 1952 (Graduates)
    Geoffrey Kennedy graduates

    Future UWA Chancellor, Geoffrey Kennedy, graduates.

  • 1968 (Graduates)
    George Winterton graduates

    George Winterton, future Fulbright Scholar and Professor of Law, graduates.

  • 1988 (Graduates)
    Gail Archer graduates

    Gail Archer, future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, graduates.

  • 1932 (Graduates)
    Joseph Starke graduates

    Joseph Starke, UWA Law School’s first Rhodes Scholar, graduates.

  • 1985 (Graduates)
    Andrew Beech graduates

    Andrew Beech, future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, graduates.

  • 1976 (Graduates)
    John Chaney graduates

    Future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, John Chaney, graduates.

  • 1928 (Significant Events)
    Teaching begins in the University building

    Teaching begins in the University building on the corner of St George’s Terrace and Irwin Street...

    Read more

  • 2017 (Significant Events; Graduates)
    A record six Indigenous graduates in a single year

    A record six Indigenous graduates in a single year (Dylan Collard, Stephanie Councillor, Angela Crombie...

    Read more

  • 1942 (Significant Events)
    The world is at war, and UWA Law School shuts down

  • 1992 (Curriculum)
    Law degree changes to become a five year degree

    The Law degree changes to become a five year degree and the Bachelor of Jurisprudence is abolished.

  • 2013 (Significant Events; Deans)
    Erika Techera becomes Dean

    Erika Techera, the first female Dean, appointed.

  • 1971 (Deans)
    Eric Edwards becomes Dean

  • 1951 (Graduates)
    John Toohey graduates

    John Toohey, future Justice of the High Court of Australia, graduates.

  • 1950 (Graduates)
    Billy Snedden graduates

    Billy Snedden, future Leader of the Liberal Party, graduates.

  • 1974 (Graduates)
    Caroline Martin graduates

    Caroline Martin, the first female judge of the Family Court of WA, graduates.

  • 1976 (Graduates)
    Michael Buss graduates

    Future Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, Michael Buss, graduates.

  • 1980 (Graduates)
    Christine Wheeler graduates

    Christine Wheeler, the first female Justice of the Supreme Court of WA, graduates.

  • 1978 (Graduates)
    Stephen Smith graduates

    Stephen Smith, future Minister for Defence, graduates.

  • 1987 (Graduates)
    Michelle Gordon graduates

    Future High Court Justice, Michelle Gordon, first female UWA graduate to be appointed to this position, graduates.

Law of the Whadjuk Noongar

The UWA Law School is situated in the homeland of the Whadjuk Noongar people and is a relative newcomer to a place already inhabited by an ancient Indigenous legal system. The Law of the Whadjuk Noongar focuses on sustaining the connections between all life, and through following their Law, the Whadjuk Noongar kept their Country and people happy and healthy for thousands of years.

When the UWA Law School was established, the complex law-ways of the Whadjuk Noongar and other Australian First Peoples was not well understood. Today, however, UWA Law School is proud to welcome Indigenous students from across Australia and looks forward to being a part of walking forward together with the Whadjuk Noongar and other First Peoples of Australia.

1920s and 30s

The UWA Law School is born in 1927 and teaching begins in 1928 with thousands of students – well, hundreds – okay, 21 students. Professor Frank Beasley is the first Dean and the only full time staff member. UWA Law starts in the University building on the corner of St George’s Terrace and Irwin Street, and moves into two rooms in the newly completed Winthrop Hall in 1936. Students and staff wear formal dress to all classes, which is to say, men wear ties and everyone wanders about in black academic gowns. The law student society is established and named after a famed English jurist, ensuring that future students forever know the name ‘Blackstone’ although some may associate it more with parties than with jurisprudence.

Before the advent of UWA Law, the only way to qualify as a lawyer was to undertake a five year articled clerkship (practical training in service to a member of the profession). The new four year Bachelor of Laws (LLB) combined with a three year clerkship provides an alternative pathway that is particularly important for women, who find it difficult to get articles due to the attitudes of the times. Of the 59 students who graduate between 1930 and 1939, 11 are women.

The very first students graduate in 1930 and back then they knew a thing or two about celebrating, with graduation festivities lasting three to four days and ending in a ball. Notable graduates in this era include Joseph Starke (the Law School’s first Rhodes scholar) and Enid Russell (the first woman admitted to legal practice in Western Australia).

1940s

The world is at war, and UWA Law shuts down from 1942 - 1943. Professor Beasley goes into active service, and Ernest Blankensee becomes the Acting Dean. In 1943, UWA Law moves into new premises that have the advantage of a disused chemistry lab that can be converted into a library, but the disadvantage of being built in a time when constructing things out of asbestos was thought to be a sterling idea. The Law School increases its full time staff to a grand total of two in 1947, and publishes the first edition of the oldest University Law Journal in Australia, the UWA Law Review, in 1948.

Notable graduates include Francis Burt (later Chief Justice of Western Australia and then Governor) and Ronald Wilson, the first WA Justice of the High Court of Australia and later the Chair of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

1950s

In 1952, the curriculum is reviewed for the first time since 1928. Roman Law is dropped and Constitutional Law is expanded. Law students begin to worry less about the Emperor Justinian and more about the separation of powers.

Between 1950 and 1960, UWA Law graduates a future Prime Minister (Bob Hawke), two Commonwealth Ministers (Billy Snedden and Ian Viner), a High Court justice (John Toohey) a WA Senator (Reg Withers), a WA Supreme Court Justice and UWA Chancellor (Geoffrey Kennedy), and the Vice-President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (Kevin Parker).

Future students increasingly feel they have a lot to live up to.

1960s

Professor Beasley retires in 1963 after an astonishing 37 years as Dean, and is succeeded by Douglas Payne. The UWA Law School moves into a building that wins architecture awards and is importantly made of concrete rather than asbestos. The new premises are opened by Sir Garfield Barwick, Chief Justice of the High Court, in 1967. The students prove the worth of their legal education by successfully challenging the hourly rate at which they were paid to move law books across campus. The Law School acquires a fountain in 1968. Sometimes it still works.

Notable graduates include a future WA Premier (Peter Dowding); WA Governor (Malcolm McCusker); WA Chief Justice (David Malcolm); first female judge of the District Court (Antoinette Kennedy); first Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (Ian Temby), and two Commonwealth Ministers (Fred Chaney and Daryl Williams).

1970s

UWA Law turns 50 in 1977 and is guided through the decade by three Deans: Eric Edwards (1971-4, 1976-8), IWP McCall (1975), and Anthony Dickey (1979 - 1981). A quota for entry into law is introduced in 1972 and the degree is restructured into a three year Bachelor of Jurisprudence with an additional year of study required to obtain an LLB. Academic attire is abandoned. Law school staff are inspired by the arrival of jeans on campus, and denim remains an integral component of the wardrobes of many law academics to this very day.

In 1971, Robert French graduates and goes on to become the first WA Chief Justice of the High Court in 2008. In 2017, Robert French returns to UWA as an Adjunct Professor and will serve as UWA’s fifteenth Chancellor from 2018. Other notable graduates in this era include Moira Rayner (first female Commissioner on the WA Law Reform Commission), Wayne Martin (Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia), Carolyn Martin (first female judge of the Family Court of WA), and Stephen Smith (Commonwealth Minister).

1980s

Power ballads blare out across campus as the Law Library, like hairstyles, gets bigger. The Deans of the 80s are Richard Harding (1982 - 1984), Louis Proksch (1984 - 1987), and James O'Donovan (1987 - 1990). The Law School awards its first ever Doctor of Philosophy (Ph D) in Law to Cristopher Carr, and the first female President of the Blackstone Society, Sarah Beshar, graduates in 1982. Other notable graduates in this decade include Cheryl Edwardes (later Attorney-General of Western Australia 1993-1995), Michelle Gordon (appointed to the High Court in 2015), and Christine Wheeler (first female justice of the Supreme Court of WA). In 1986, for the first time since the establishment of the Law School, women graduates outnumber men, a trend which continues to the present day.

1990s

Between 1988 and the early 90s – over 60 years since the Law School was established in Whadjuk Noongar Country – the first Indigenous students graduate (Beau Hanbury, Eric Hayward, and David Maclean).

In 1992, the Law degree changes to become a five year degree that must be combined with another undergraduate qualification, and the Bachelor of Jurisprudence is abolished. UWA Law awards its first Masters of Laws (LLM) by coursework in 1991 and continues the tradition of having three Deans per decade: Stan Hotop (1990 – 1992), John Phillips (1993 – 1995) and Ian Campbell (1996 – 1999). Law students begin competing in the Phillip Jessup International Law Mooting Competition in 1992, resulting in the consumption of much time, energy and coffee and the generation of high levels of anxiety.

Notable graduates of the 90s include James Edelman (appointed as a Justice of the High Court in 2017), and Ben Wyatt, the third Indigenous Australian in Parliament and the first Aboriginal person to serve as Treasurer in any Australian government.

2000s and beyond

UWA Law School celebrates turning 75 in 2003 and the Jessup Moot team celebrate too after winning the world championship under the guidance of the late Dr Peter Johnston. William Ford serves as Dean from 2000 – 2010 and is succeeded by Stuart Kaye (2010-2012) and then the first female Dean, Erika Techera (2013 – 2016). UWA Law appoints its first female professor, Holly Cullen, in 2010 and its second female Dean, Natalie Skead, in 2017.

The Aboriginal pre-law program continues to increase Indigenous participation in law and from the inception of the program in 1994 to 2017, UWA Law graduates sixty Indigenous students, including a record six graduates in a single year in 2017 (Dylan Collard, Stephanie Councillor, Angela Crombie, Kelsi Forrest, Katja Gvozdenovic and Micah Kickett).

In the biggest change to law curriculum since 1928, the LLB is abolished in 2013 and a Juris Doctor is introduced. UWA Law embarks on a new era of teaching law as a postgraduate degree, and offers majors in Law & Society and Business Law within undergraduate Arts and Commerce degrees.

In 2013, UWA law student Akram Azimi – who fled Afghanistan as a refugee in 1999 – is named Young Australian of the Year in recognition of his dedication to social justice.

As UWA Law looks to its next chapter, it is determined to uphold the high academic standards and intellectual rigor of its courses and to ensure these courses are inclusive of students of all cultures, backgrounds and identities so as to create the critical thinkers of the future.