Daryl Dawson

Sir Daryl Michael Dawson, AC, KBE, CB, QC (born 12 December 1933) is a former Australian judge who served as a Justice of the High Court of Australia from 1982 to 1997. Before being appointed to the High Court, he served for periods as a legal officer in the Royal Australian Navy and as Solicitor-General of Victoria.

Sir Daryl Dawson

Justice of the High Court of Australia
In office
30 July 1982 – 15 August 1997
Nominated byMalcolm Fraser
Appointed byNinian Stephen
Preceded bySir Keith Aickin
Succeeded byKenneth Hayne
Personal details
Born (1933-12-12) 12 December 1933 (age 86)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
EducationCanberra High School
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
Yale University

Early life and educationEdit

Dawson was born in Melbourne but raised in Canberra, where he attended Canberra High School. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of Melbourne, living at Ormond College and received a Bachelor of Laws with honours. He later completed a Master of Laws at Yale University on a Fulbright Scholarship.


Legal careerEdit

Dawson was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1957 (and later to the Tasmanian Bar in 1972). In the 1960s, Dawson was commander of the Royal Australian Navy's legal service in Melbourne, holding the rank of lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve. Dawson was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1971. From 1974 to 1982, Dawson served as the Solicitor-General of Victoria.

Judicial careerEdit

Dawson was a member of the Australian Motor Sport Appeal Court from 1974 to 1986, and was the chairman of this court in 1987. In 1982, Dawson was appointed a Justice of the High Court of Australia, a position he held until retiring on 15 August 1997. He was the only justice in dissent in the case of Mabo v Queensland as well as Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd v Amadio.[1] This is how he got the nickname Dissenting Dawson.[2] He also dissented in Australian Capital Television v Commonwealth,[3] holding there was no implied freedom of political communication in the Australian Constitution. From 1997 until 2003, Dawson served as a non-permanent judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.

In 1998, he became a director and chairman of the Menzies Foundation. Dawson is currently a professorial fellow at the Melbourne Law School, and an adjunct professor at Monash University.[4]

Post-judicial activitiesEdit

Justice Dawson headed a Royal Commission into the 1998 explosion at a natural gas processing plant at Longford, which killed two people and crippled Victoria's energy supply for weeks.

He occasionally adjudicates mooting competitions at the University of Melbourne.


In 1980, Dawson was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB). Dawson was knighted in 1982, becoming a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE), and known formally as Sir Daryl Dawson. In 1986, Dawson was made a Companion of the Order of Australia; at the time, Australia's highest civilian honour. In 2006, he was awarded a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) from Monash University, with the University of Melbourne conferring the same award.[5]


  1. ^ (1983) 151 CLR 447
  2. ^ Willmott, L. (et al.) Contract Law (South Melbourne, Vic. : Oxford University Press, 2009)
  3. ^ (1992) 177 CLR 106
  4. ^ Monash Memo printable version - 31 May 2006 Archived 21 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Sir Daryl Dawson: Citation (Doctor of Laws)" (PDF). University of Melbourne. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 April 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015.