Commander Sir Laurence Whistler Street, AC, KCMG, KStJ, QC (3 July 1926 – 21 June 2018) was an Australian jurist. He was formerly the 14th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales.[1] He was the youngest to serve in these offices since 1844 and the third consecutive Street to do so, the only such case in Australian history.[2] He was a World War II veteran and naval Commander.[3]

Sir Laurence Whistler Street

Commander Sir Laurence Street III.png
14th Chief Justice of New South Wales
In office
28 June 1974 – 1 November 1988
Appointed byElizabeth II
Preceded bySir John Kerr
Succeeded byMurray Gleeson
Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales
In office
1 July 1974 – 24 July 1989
Preceded bySir Leslie Herron
Succeeded byMurray Gleeson
Personal details
Born(1926-07-03)3 July 1926
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died21 June 2018(2018-06-21) (aged 91)
MotherLady Jessie Street
FatherSir Kenneth Street
RelativesStreet family
Alma materSydney Law School
Military service
AllegianceCommonwealth of Australia
Branch/serviceRoyal Australian Navy
Royal Australian Naval Reserve
Battles/warsWorld War II

Following retirement from the judiciary at age 62, Street became renowned as a pioneer of alternative dispute resolution, notably conducting the first mediation over the return to Australia of Aboriginal Australian human remains held by the National History Museum in London.[4] Among a range of offices, he was chairman of Fairfax Media, director of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, and world president of the International Law Association.

Early lifeEdit

Street was born in Sydney, the son of Sir Kenneth Whistler Street and Lady (Jessie Mary Grey) Street. His father was the son of Sir Philip Whistler Street and Lady (Belinda Maud) Street. His mother was the daughter of Charles Alfred Gordon Lillingston (great-grandson of Sir George Grey, 1st Baronet and thereby great-great-grandson of Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey)[5] and Mabel Harriet Ogilvie, daughter of Australian politician Edward Ogilvie.[6] Street's father Sir Kenneth was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales between 1950 and 1960, as was his grandfather Sir Philip.[7] Street's mother Lady "Red Jessie" Street was known for her extensive campaigning for human rights, particularly women's rights and Australian Aboriginal rights. She drove the formation of the Aboriginal Rights Organisation, which led to the successful referendum held in 1967.[8]

Street attended the Cranbrook School in Bellevue Hill. At age 17, he joined the Royal Australian Navy and was deployed to fight in World War II. Returning from the war, he studied law at Sydney Law School. Street became a barrister at the New South Wales Bar in 1951. As a barrister, he practised extensively in equity, commercial law and maritime law. In 1965, he was appointed as a judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court in the Equity Division.[9] In 1974, at age 47, Street became the youngest Chief Justice since 1844.[1] In 1976 he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George.[10] He retired in 1988[9] and was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia in 1989.[11]

Later yearsEdit

From 1989, he worked as a commercial mediator and an alternative dispute resolution consultant. This work included 1,500 mediations, mainly involving major commercial disputes.[9] In 2007 he branched out into criminal law, heading a review of a decision by the Queensland Director of Public Prosecution in the Chris Hurley case.[12] In 2007, he upheld his mother's legacy of support for Aboriginal Australians by conducting the first mediation over the return to Australia of Aboriginal Australian human remains held by the National History Museum in London.

In early 2008 he chaired an Inquiry which led to an agreed procedural protocol between the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Commonwealth Director of Prosecutions governing the investigation and prosecution of terrorist activities. Later in 2008, he chaired an in-depth Inquiry established by the Chief of Defence into the Defence Force Disciplinary System. He has carried out a number of other public assignments including the Inquiry for the Queensland Government into the Palm Island aboriginal death in custody (2008), senior probity auditor for the Defence Department on the $8 billion air warfare destroyer project (2005), and senior probity auditor for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on the Immigration Detention facilities project (2007).

In recent years, he was a director and later chairman of Fairfax Media and a director of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the oldest bank in the world. He also held office as Australian and world president of the International Law Association, London of which he was a life vice president. He was a member of several professional organisations, including an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Institute of Building.[13] and an Honorary Member of the Society of Construction Law Australia. He was a patron of the Jessie Street National Women’s Library and the Jessie Street Trust, both created in memory of his mother.


Sir Laurence's sister Philippa married the Australian Test cricketer and journalist Jack Fingleton.[14] Street's first wife was Susan Gai Watt, the first female Chair of the East Sydney health service (now amalgamated with Illawarra), niece of Australian aviator Oswald Watt, granddaughter of Australian politician John Brown Watt and great-granddaughter of Australian politician George Kenyon Holden. By Susan, Street had four children: Kenneth, Sylvia, Alexander and Sarah. By his second wife Penelope, he had one daughter, Jessie, who is god-daughter to Charles, Prince of Wales.[15] All three of Sir Laurence's daughters are Sydney Law School graduates, as he was. His eldest daughter, Sylvia Emmett, is a Federal Circuit Court Judge, a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve and the spouse of Arthur Emmett, a fellow Federal Circuit Court Judge and Challis Lecturer in Roman Law at Sydney Law School.[16] His eldest son Kenneth is a businessman. His youngest son Sandy Street is a Federal Circuit Court Judge and a Commander in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve. His youngest daughter by Susan Watt, Sarah Farley, is a board member of the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation.[17]

Further detailsEdit

Sir Laurence died on the night of 21 June 2018. He was buried with a state funeral at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall in July 2018.[18] Sir Laurence's wife Lady Penny Street recalled her husband's love of the bush, music, literature and horses. His son Justice Alexander Street recounted: "Laurence knew the importance of the art of storytelling in building the fabric of society and virtues of self-worth, family, community and patriotism [...] The bushie tried to fatten weaners and sell them as forward stores in good seasons. We lost nearly all of the beloved horses in the bushfires of 1979 […] Like most bushies, he battled droughts, fires, floods and would tell us round the campfire about the stars in the Milky Way and night sky navigation […] A great lion has fallen. On behalf of my siblings, Sylvia, Ken, Sarah, Jessie and I, forever and ever, love father, hail and farewell."[19]

In an elegy before 700, incumbent Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke of his mentor: "As a barrister, he was as eloquent as he was erudite, as formidable as he was fashionable […] Laurence had movie star good looks coupled with a charisma, charm and intellect, a humility, a humanity that swept all before him […] His nickname, Lorenzo the Magnificent, was well earned." The Prime Minister recalled how Sir Laurence had provided a reference for him to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford. Incumbent New South Wales Attorney General Mark Speakman hailed Sir Laurence as "a giant of the law in NSW".[20] Incumbent Chief Justice of Australia Tom Bathurst remembered him as "one of the outstanding jurists of the 20th century."[21] Sir Laurence once said: "I've never felt constrained in my private life by the cast-iron requirements of society. I got divorced, I remarried, and had a second family of one. I have led a life that has not necessarily always conformed to the strict Victorian standards".[22][23]


  1. ^ a b Sir Alfred Stephen, 3rd Chief Justice of NSW, 1844 to 1873 Archived 23 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Sun-Herald (Sydney), 20 Feb 1972.
  3. ^ Accredited Biography
  4. ^ Who's Who Legal
  5. ^ National Archives of Australia
  6. ^ Australian Royalty
  7. ^ Bennett, J. M. (2002). Street, Sir Kenneth Whistler (1890–1972). Australian Dictionary of Biography. 16. Melbourne University Press. p. 332.
  8. ^ Papers of Jessie Street (1889–1970), National Library of Australia, 4 December 2006
  9. ^ a b c The Honourable Sir Lawrence Street, Sir Lawrence Street, 2003 Archived 19 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ It's an Honour: KCMG
  11. ^ It's an Honour: AC
  12. ^ Aboriginal leaders applaud Mulrunji review appointment, ABC News Online, 4 January 2007 Archived 30 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^, AIB List of Honorary Members, 19 March 2006 Archived 6 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Growden, Greg (2008). Jack Fingleton: the man who stood up to Bradman. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. pp. 136–152. ISBN 978-1-74175-548-0.
  15. ^ "Sir Laurence Street: the very model of a modern chief justice". Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  16. ^ "Judge Sylvia Emmett". Judges and Senior Staff. Federal Circuit Court of Australia. 5 July 2004. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  17. ^ "Judge Sandy Street". Judges and Senior Staff. Federal Circuit Court of Australia. 5 July 2004. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  18. ^ "Sir Laurence Street remembered as an 'outstanding jurist'". Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  19. ^ "Malcolm Turnbull remembers mentor Sir Laurence Street's 'charisma, charm and intellect' - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". 5 July 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  20. ^ "Sir Laurence Street remembered as a 'man for all seasons'". 5 July 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  21. ^ "We're for Sydney". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  22. ^ Steve Dow, Journalist
  23. ^ Maddox, Garry (22 June 2018). "Sir Laurence Street remembered as an outstanding legal figure". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 June 2018.

External linksEdit

Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir John Kerr
Chief Justice of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Murray Gleeson
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Leslie Herron
Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Murray Gleeson