Home » Society » Australian High Court Judges » Sir Gerard Brennan

Sir Gerard Brennan

Sir Gerard Brennan

Sir Gerard Brennan

On 22 May 1928, Sir Francis Gerard Brennan was born in Rockhampton, Australia. His father’s name was Frank Tenison Brennan. Notably, his father was a Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland. His mother’s name was Gertrude Marty Brennan. He completed his schooling from the Range Convent School.

He was educated at Downlands College in Toowoomba and St Joseph’s Christian Brothers' College in Rockhampton. Due to his talent and intelligence, he excelled at school and attended university education at the age of sixteen. He enrolled for a combine degree Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws at the University of Queensland. He was active in student politics while at the university. He was elected as a President of the National Union of Students in 1949.


The year 1981 witness his appointment as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In his life time he has received many awards and honorary degrees from various universities like University of Technology, Sydney (Hon LLD), the University of Melbourne (Hon LLD), University of Queensland (Hon LLD), Griffith University (Hon Duniv), Central Queensland University (Hon Dlitt) and Trinity College, Dublin (Hon LLD). From 1999 to 2005, he served as Chancellor of the University of Technology, Sydney. Having exhibited tremendous service in the field of law, he was appointed as a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1988.

He started his legal career as an associate to his father Frank Tenison Brennan at the Supreme Court of Queensland. His first day at the Supreme Court of Queensland as an associate was not a success.

He worked at the Australian National University after the death of his father. He was an associate to Kenneth Townley who was newly appointed Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland. Brennan was greatly influenced by Townley. Townley’s appointment was to preside over the war crimes trials on Manus Island, New Guinea. He was aware of the complexities of international law.

In 1951, he showed his talent at the Queensland Bar and his first case was well settled, matter involved in letters of administration which had been granted to a person outside the jurisdiction. He was focused on both committal proceedings and commercial disputes. He was very clear and lucid in his judicial decisions. He had exhibited comprehensive knowledge of the law with practical implications.

In 1965, he was appointed a Queen's Counsel in Queensland. Later, he was admitted in NSW, the Northern Territory, Papua and New Guinea, and Fiji. He appeared in many important cases including his 1972 prosecution in Rabaul of the murder of a District Commissioner and his 1969representation of the Fijian Alliance Party in an arbitration matter before Lord Denning. He was fought for Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory in 1974.

He spent all his valuable time at the Bar and concentrated on the development of Australian legal system. From 1974 to 1976, he was elected President of the Bar Association of Queensland. From 1975 to 1976, he was the President of the Australian Bar Association. As a member of the Executive of the Law Council of Australia, he spent two years from 1974 to 1976. He became a part time member of the Australian Law Reform Commission from 1975 to 1977, and engaged himself for the development of Australian Law.

In spite of busy schedule, he tried to spend much time with his family members and he was a dedicated father. In1953, Gerard Brenna married Dr Patricia O'Hara. He had seven children including three sons and four daughters.

Brennan has made tremendous contribution for the development and implication of Australian administrative law. In 1976, he was appointed by the Fraser government as the first President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Tribunal attained a stupendous position at that time, focusing on the division between executive and judicial power.

Brennan was able to develop the tribunal focusing on administrative or judicial model. As the first President of the new institution, he tried to adopt judicial model and put key eye on early development and establishment of tribunal. He was the first President of the newly created Administrative Review Council. For bringing about establish stability and strength, his role was to advice the government on matters relating to administrative law. He was appointed as one of the foundation judges of the new Federal Court of Australia in 1977. For concentrating and devoting full time and energy on his duties as a judge of the Federal Court, he retired from his position as President of the Tribunal in1979.

He was appointed as a Justice of the High Court by the Fraser government in1981, following Barwick’s retirement and Gibbs’s position as a Chief Justice. After his appointment as President of the Tribunal, Brennan moved to Canberra and lived there until his retirement from the High Court.

Types Of Visas

Immigration Info

Australian History

Facebook Twitter