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80th birthday honours for Sir Ninian


Cite as: (2003) 77(10) LIJ, p.16

The 80th birthday of one of the Victorian legal profession’s giants, Sir Ninian Stephen, was celebrated at a dinner hosted by the University of Melbourne Law School.

High Court Justice Michael Kirby and Federal Court Justice Susan Kenny were two of the group of eminent speakers who paid tribute to the impact Sir Ninian’s work has had in Australia and internationally.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and former Governor-General Sir William Deane were among more than 200 people who attended the dinner on 24 July.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a letter to Sir Ninian, which was read at the dinner by Australian Red Cross Professor of International Humanitarian Law Tim McCormack.

In the letter, Mr Annan referred to Sir Ninian’s “pioneering contribution in the United Nations sphere as a judge and in the realm of international legal policy”.

“The United Nations owes you a debt of gratitude for your integrity, vision, energy and commitment. May we keep benefiting from your wisdom for many years to come and may jurists around the world be inspired by your example.”

In response, Sir Ninian spoke about the influence his time at the law school had on him. In particular, he praised the influence of teachers Sir George Paton and Professor Geoffrey Sawyer.

Sir Ninian became a solicitor in 1949 and was admitted to the Bar in 1952. He took silk in 1966 and was appointed to the Supreme Court Bench in 1970.

Two years later he was appointed to the High Court, where he served for 10 years before being chosen as Governor-General of Australia.

After completing his term in 1989, Sir Ninian became involved in international affairs. In 1992 he was chairman of the second strand of talks between the British and Irish governments over Northern Ireland. Then for four years from 1993 he was a judge on the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.


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