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Sir Wilfred Fullagar

Sir Wilfred Fullagar

Early Life and Education

Sir Wilfred Fullagar was born on 16th November 1892 at Malvern, Melbourne, Australia. His father Thomas Kelsham Fullagar  was a merchant by profession. Sarah Elizabeth was his mother. Fullagar was educated at Haileybury College, Brighton.

He studied at the University of Melbourne. He graduated from the University with a Master of Arts and Master of Laws. His knowledge of classic was developed by Prof. T. G. Tucker. He was good at Greek and Latin literature. He also wrote a number of Latin poems. The knowledge of classical training was intelligently reflected in his writings. He had a happy marriage with Marion Frederica Dorothea Lovejoy in 1919.  He remarried to Mary Taylor after the death of his first wife in 1941.


He had a deep knowledge of philology and logic.  He got Wyselaskie scholarship for his excellence in classical and comparative philology and logic. He completed graduated with first-class honours. He won the Supreme Court judges' prize in 1915. In 1968, a literature series was set up by the Monash University in the memory of Wilfred.

Legal Career

Fullagar enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 28th October 1916, while articled to the Melbourne solicitor J. W. McComas. In France, he also served with the 7th Field Artillery Brigade from May 1918. He was retired as a sergeant in 1919.  For studying Law in England, he was granted six months leaves. In January 1920, he came back to Melbourne and on 8th February, he was discharged from the A.I.F.

Initially, he worked for the Department of Repatriation and Commonwealth Immigration Service due to cost factor which created a stumbling bulk for setting up practice as a barrister. He was compelled to accept financial assistance from his friends Owen Dixon and John Latham. On 7 April 1922, Fullagar was admitted to the Victorian Bar and within a short span he established a new trend of successful practice.

At the University of Melbourne, he lectured in common law jurisdictions and legal procedure. He also lectured in Australian constitutional law from 1943 to 1945. He had made appearances before the High Court and also involved in many cases argued before the Privy Council like Dried Fruits case, and Attorney-General (NSW) v Trethowan.

He was appointed as a King's Counsel in the year 1933 and served as the Vice President of the Law Council of Australia in 1938. He was also a director of a company named Argus & Australasian Ltd.

Fullagar's early legal career was disturbed by the First World War. Fullagar was made as a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria on 1st August 1945, a position he held until his appointment to the High Court on 8th February 1950, following the resignation of Sir Hayden Starke.

He was also made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  His contribution for making Australian High Court as one of the leading appellate courts in the common law world can never be undermined. Most of his judgments in the field of Law were classics. He had delivered many important judgments on various cases including Jackson v Goldsmith, the Communist Party Dissolution Case, Wilson v Darling Island Stevedoring, Williams v Hursey, etc.

He has exhibited highest quality of judicial work in his life time. His judgments have been used precedents for taking judgment based on legality and jurisprudence. His doctrine and principles for both private and public law can never be neglected. He was basically focused on implementation of equity and constitutional law.

According to Dixon, Fullagar was most lovable and very friendly in nature.  He was a person with dark hair, blue eye, and full face, thickset and middle height. He was suffering from cerebral thrombosis and died on 9 July 1961. He was survived by his first wife’s four sons and second wife’s only son Richard who later followed him to the bench of the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1975.

He sat on bench of the High Court until his death. As an outstanding judge, his judgments were based on the principles of legality and free from emotions. His achievements were really unquestionable and delivered distinct qualities of judgments. In the field of law and jurisprudence, he left no stone unturned.

He was involved in various recreational activities including bowls, gardening, walking, trout-fishing, etc. He also wrote light verses. He was also a voracious reader.

Judges like Belvin Perry, Leonard Anthony Boyle, Judith M. Barzilay, Edward B. Davis and Charles Gonthier have been compared with Wilfred Fullagar.

Justice of the High Court of Australia
In office 8 February 1950– 9 July 1961
Nominated by Robert Menzies
Preceded by Sir Hayden Starke
Succeeded by Sir William Owen
Personal details
Born 16 November 1892 Malvern, Victoria, Australia
Died 9 July 1961

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