Former High Court Judge Dyson Heydon AC QC Addresses Young Law Students

18 September 2013

On Thursday evening, 5th September 2013, The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Sydney Law School celebrated its 7th Annual Prizegiving Ceremony and Michael O’Dea Oration. Students who excelled in their studies of law in the 2012 Academic Year were recognized for their academic achievements. High achievers included students Patricia Muscat and Rochelle Jones. Patricia was awarded six prizes for first place in individual units of study and Rochelle was awarded the coveted Herro Scholarship as the highest achieving student to enroll in Property Law A and B.

Notre Dame’s Sydney Law School continues to enjoy the support of the judiciary, with numerous New South Wales senior judges in attendance. This year’s Michael O’Dea Oration was delivered by the Honourable Justice John Dyson Heydon AC QC.

The evening was capped by an address by the Honorable Justice Dyson Heydon AC QC and attended by a host of distinguished luminaries from the legal profession including the Attorney General of New South Wales and Minister for Justice The Honourable Greg Smith SC MP and The Chancellor of the University of Notre Dame Australia Mr Terence Tobin QC.

The Honourable Justice Heydon AC QC graduated in arts from the University of Sydney, and, as the Rhodes Scholar for New South Wales in 1964, graduated as Master of Arts and Bachelor of Civil Law from Oxford University. He was admitted to the New South Wales Bar in 1973 and was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1987. At age 34, he was elected Dean of the University of Sydney Law School for 1978–79.

He practised at the Bar from 1979 until his appointment to the Court of Appeal. He was appointed a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia in 2004. Justice Heydon AC QC was appointed to the High Court in February 2003, until his retirement earlier this year. Prior to this appointment, he was a judge of the New South Wales Court of Appeal.

Justice Heydon spoke on the topic, “German Catholics against the State: Ludwig Windhorst and Cardinal von Galen”, discussing the failed attempts of Chancellor Bismarck and Fuhrer Hitler to suppress Catholicism during their periods in power. His speech had great resonance with contemporary Australia, referring in particular to the development of “a new anti-Catholic movement, particularly among the intellectuals,” which he suggested “in Australia now might be called the racism of the intellectuals.” Most significantly he noted the likelihood that “this new anti-Catholicism may backfire” because of its failure “to recognise the extraordinary contribution of Australian Catholicism to education, to charitable relief, to the running of hospitals, and to social advantages of all kinds.”

Professor Michael Quinlan, Dean of the School of Law, said it was a great honour for Notre Dame Law students to be addressed by the esteemed Honourable Justice John Dyson Heydon AC QC, noting that “Justice Heydon was one of Australia’s finest High Court judges and he remains one of our greatest intellectuals. It was a great privilege to host him and to hear his thought-provoking analysis of German history as it resonates with contemporary Australian society”.

Daniel Carney, a student of Notre Dame Law School serving as an Acolyte at the Prize Giving Mass said that events such as this provided Notre Dame Law students with a unique opportunity to develop networks with the legal profession and to gain the wisdom and guidance of leading Australian and international lawyers and intellectuals.

The Michael O’Dea Oration was instituted by the University in 2011. Previous speakers have included Professor John Finnis and the Honourable Tom Hughes AO QC.  The Oration marks Michael O’Dea’s tremendous service to the profession and the wider community over many years. Mr O’Dea was senior partner of the firm Carroll and O’Dea until 2005 and remains in active practice.

He has served on the boards of many community organisations including the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Christian Brothers’ Provincial Advisory Council and St Margaret’s Hospital, to name but a few. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1992 and awarded a Papal Knighthood in 2008. His career has exemplified the practice of law as a profession in which the obligations to clients and the courts are paramount, and in which the demands of justice can never be reduced to those of business.

Click here to read the Michael O'Dea Oration delivered by The Honourable Justice Dyson Heydon AC QC

WA:     Hannah Beazley: Tel (08) 9433 0506; Email