Welcome to the Honourable Justice Gregory Garde

Date: 13 Jun 2012
Author/Organisation: Reynah Tang - President-Elect of the Law Institute of Victoria

Address by Reynah Tang, President-Elect of the Law Institute of Victoria, on Wednesday 13 June 2012 at the Welcome to the Honourable Justice Gregory Garde upon his appointment to the Supreme Court of Victoria and as President of VCAT.

  1. May it please the Court.

  2. I appear on behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria and of the Solicitors of this State to congratulate Your Honour Justice Garde on your appointment to this Court, and as President of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

  3. Michael Holcroft, the President of the Law Institute, is not in Melbourne and has asked me to pass on his congratulations and best wishes.

  4. Your Honour commenced your legal career serving articles with Peter Kelly – a leading commercial solicitor – at the firm formerly known as Mallesons. You were Peter’s first articled clerk.  Your Honour also served a substantial rotation with David Walsh, working on the first major contracts for engineering and construction work for the City Loop in Melbourne.  And you served a substantial rotation with Matt Walsh in Wills, Trusts & Estates.

  5. However, you were set upon going to the Bar, and remained at Mallesons for only a little over 6 months after your admission to practice.

  6. You rounded out your training and experience by Reading for the Bar with Bill Gillard – later Justice Gillard of this Court.

  7. Although you did not practice for much time as or in the manner of a solicitor, your Honour nevertheless has deep roots in our branch of the profession.

  8. Your late father, John Garde, and his brother Bruce (also now deceased) both practised as solicitors for some 50 years – your uncle Bruce, as a country solicitor in Mildura – Your Honour’s father, in Melbourne – and then in Moorabin – in partnership for 35 years with Loch Adams, practising as Adams & Garde.

  9. Like Your Honour, your father was a scholarship recipient.  From Mildura, where he was born, he won a scholarship to Ballarat College.  Like Your Honour, he joined the Melbourne University Regiment – then known as the Melbourne University Rifles.

  10. Your father enlisted in 1940.  He interrupted his law studies, trained as a pilot, and saw active service in Papua New Guinea ending the War as a Flight Lieutenant.

  11. In about 1968, John Garde became a foundation member of the Southern Solicitors Group – a suburban association of the Law Institute.

  12. In those days, the Institute was, in the view of some, well represented, or in the view of others – overrepresented – by partners in the City firms.  Your Honour’s father moved the motion, at an extraordinary meeting of the Institute, to amend the Institute’s Constitution to provide for direct representation of the suburban law associations on the Institute Council, which continued until 1997 when those seats were abolished to allow the size of the Council to be reduced to more manageable levels.

  13. Following the constitutional change, your father served as a member of the Law Institute Council for some 4 years.

  14. Fittingly, in 2007, John Garde was made an Honorary Life Member of the Institute.

  15. As a former World War II pilot, John Garde held – and maintained – every civil flying licence short of a commercial pilot’s licence.  Matt Walsh, a past President of the Institute, recalls your father flying him to Mildura in a light plane for a meeting. In keeping to tradition, the Institute now has a President, who also hails from Mildura and regularly flies his own plane back and forth to Melbourne.

  16. Your Honour’s instructing solicitors over many years speak of your extraordinary capacity for hard work.

  17. Your willingness to work all hours, as needed, is legendary.  In one case involving a fierce dispute within an Eastern Orthodox Church, Your Honour was called upon after midnight to obtain an urgent ex parte interlocutory injunction.  Your Honour telephoned and woke a Judge of this Court, and got the injunction over the phone.  Your instructing solicitor and junior came to your house and you worked with them until 4 in the morning drawing a statement of claim and affidavits for the issue of proceedings later in the morning and a further hearing on the injunction.

  18. What stands out for one partner in a city firm, who has briefed Your Honour for decades is the support you have always given to younger solicitors – taking the time so they could learn and understand, rather than just be given instructions as to what was needed.  You guided and encouraged – refraining from criticism or reprimand.

  19. That’s how you were with that partner more than 20 years ago; and that’s how you have continued with his young solicitors starting out in land acquisition and compensation law.

  20. Your Honour’s skills and experience as a soldier and lawyer came together brilliantly in your organisation and presentation of major cases:
    • You were always well and thoroughly prepared;
    • You chose carefully the ground on which to fight;
    • And then you pressed your case relentlessly.
  21. Your presentation was calm and measured; and you inspired confidence in even the most nervous and distressed client.

  22. Perhaps based on your experience of being posted to the reserves regiment at Monash University in the heyday of radical protests during the 1970s, your Honour has never shied away from what may be unpopular causes or clients.  In recent years, you have acted for:
    • the Port of Melbourne and Victorian Government in relation to the case against the Blue Wedges environmental group over the channel deepening project;
    • the Brethren in fighting an anti-discrimination case over gay access to a Church owned camping site at Phillip Island; and
    • the City of Frankston in regards to escape of leachate gas from the landfill at the Brookland Greens housing estate in Stevensons Road, Cranbourne.
  23. Even with such matters, your instructing solicitors comment on what a pleasure it was working with Your Honour.  Instructing solicitors came and went – but Your Honour was a constant rock.  In the St Kilda triangle litigation Your Honour first gave advice in 2003.  The case went to the Supreme Court; to VCAT; to the Court of Appeal – it went on and on and only ended about a year ago.  Your Honour was the one constant as your instructing solicitor changed 4 times due to pregnancies and consequent maternity leave.

  24. And nothing threw Your Honour’s calm.

  25. The story is told of a ceremonial parade at Kyneton in the mid 1980s when Your Honour was the Commanding Officer of the 4th / 19th Prince of Wales Light Horse Regiment.  While this was historically a light horse regiment, by then it had long become an Armoured Regiment.

  26. Your Honour was in your “Ferret” – an unattractive name for a sort of armoured sports-car.  The “Ferret” had a Rolls Royce engine.  Unfortunately that was the only thing about the Ferret that was at all reliable.  Gremlins reigned in the electrical and radio systems – and your Ferret failed immediately before the ceremonial parade.  You commandeered the healthier Ferret of your 2-i-c and ordered your Commanding Officer’s pennant transferred.  A Reserves Lieutenant was wrestling with that – until rescued by the regular army Regimental Sergeant Major who said “Don’t take the pennant off – transfer the whole aerial!”  And, off you went, pennant flying.

  27. Recently, I represented the Law Institute at the welcome for Justice Ross, your VCAT predecessor, as President of the Fair Work Australia.  No doubt there is some hard work ahead of you in continuing necessary reform at VCAT, but perhaps spare a thought for Justice Ross whose organisation is now at the centre of what passes as contemporary Australian politics. 

  28. Your Honour is the fourth Victorian Judge who has held rank as a General.  Chief Justice Sir Edmund Herring was a Lieutenant General.  County Court Judge Norman Vickery – Justice Peter Vickery’s father – was a Major General.  And Justice Richard Tracey of the Federal Court in the Victorian Registry is also a Major General.

  29. On behalf of the Law Institute and of the Solicitors of this State, I wish Your Honour satisfying and distinguished service as a Judge of this Court and in your Commission as President of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

  30. May it please the Court.
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