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Sir Ronald Wilson

 

Sir Ronald Wilson

Early Life and Education

On 23rd August 1922, Ronald Wilson was born in Geraldton, Western Australia. He faced many huddles and sufferings throughout his life. At the age of 4 he lost his mother and at the age of 7 his father suffered a heart stroke and was in a hospice for next five years. His elder brother took care of him like his father.

For many years his family was in financial instability. He left his formal schooling at the age of 14 and worked as a messenger with the Geraldton Local Court. He married Leila Smith in April 1950. He had 3 sons and 2 daughters. In 1941, enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force, he was later transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force. He was a Flying Officer during 2nd World War and flew a Spitfire in Britain. He completed his Law degree at the University of Western Australia in 1949. In 1957, he also completed Master of Laws degree at the University of Pennsylvania as a Fulbright scholar.

Awards

Wilson was appointed as a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1987 for providing services to the community in Western Australia. He was appointed as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) for services as a Judge of the High Court. He was also appointed as a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for services to the law on 26th January 1988.

On 1st January 2001, he was awarded the Centenary Medal for providing service as a Justice of the High Court of Australia and to human rights. For his in-depth knowledge in law and jurisprudence, he was conferred with many honorary degrees like Doctor of Laws from the University of Western Australia, Doctor of Education from Keimyung University and Doctor of the University from Murdoch University. He was also admitted as a Queen's Counsel in 1963.

Legal Career

In 1951, Ronald Wilson was admitted as a barrister and solicitor.In his legal career he had shown his rapid growth. After working 8 years as a lawyer, in 1959, he rose to the position of a Crown Prosecutor for Western Australia. Ronald Wilson’s nickname was "Avenging Angel" while acted as a prosecutor. He became a Solicitor-General of Western Australian 1969, a position he served for 10 years under the umbrella of both Labor and Liberal governments. In 1979, he was appointed to the High Court of Australia by the Fraser Government.

He was also the first member of the court from Western Australia. He adopted a federalist position on the court and was frequently in the minority on issues relating to the scope of the Commonwealth's external affairs legislative power. The functioning of the court, during his time was based on free of voting blocs.

Frequently, Wilson was in minority on issues related to the scope and significance of Common Wealth Legislative Power. In his tenure, he delivered many joint judgments and often he was a party to a joint judgment. The Judgment of Cole v Whitefield was the bright example of it. His participation in large number of criminal cases was unchallengeable.

During Wilson’s term the Court dealt with many important constitutional cases. During his tenure he delivered many landmark decisions on cases including Queensland Electricity Commission v Commonwealth (1985), Koowarta’s Case (1982), the Tasmanian Dam Case (1983) and Mabo (No 1) (1988). He also took part in many important judgments including Todorovic v Waller (1981) (damages), Williams v The Queen (1986) (arrest), R v O’Connor (1980) (effect of intoxication on criminal intent), the Northern Land Council Case (1981) (limit of Crown immunity) and Actors Equity v Fontana Films (1982) (corporations power). In his life time he occupied many important positions like the National President of the Uniting Church of Australia, Chancellor of Murdoch University, President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), Deputy Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and many other important positions.

He encouraged the broad Australian community for clarity and understanding of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history. After his retirement in February 1989, he travelled a lot to church events and Aboriginal. He was also an active member of a refugee education scheme in his locality. As a renowned lawyer, judge and social activist, he exhibited tremendous contribution in the field of law and jurisprudence.

In addition, as a President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Deputy Chairperson of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, Chancellor of Murdoch University and as one of the three eminent jurists conducting The WA Inc Royal Commission, Wilson’s left no stone unturned. His achievements and contribution will never be wiped out from the minds of Australians. As a renowned figure, Ronald Wilson has been saluted with great honor and prestige.

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