The Macrossan Lecture series

In 2023, a new Macrossan lecture series was established by The TC Beirne School of Law and the UQ Law Association (UQLA). It is proposed that annual public lectures will be given in the Banco Court of the Supreme Court of Queensland, to celebrate the commencement of each academic year. In the spirit of the original lecture series, distinguished Australians will be invited to address varied topics of public importance. It is proposed that, in due course, all the Macrossan lectures will be published on a dedicated section of the UQLA website.

2023 lecture: How to Interpret a Generally Expressed Constitutional Provision: the Example of the Tasmania Lobster Case.

Presented on Thursday 30 March, 2023, at the Banco Court, Supreme and District Courts, Brisbane.

About this year's presenter

Profile photo of The Honourable Hugh Fraser KCThe Honourable Hugh Fraser KC was awarded a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) from The University of Queensland in 1978. In 1979 he was admitted as a barrister of the Supreme Court of Queensland while serving as associate to the Honourable Justice James Dunn, Supreme Court of Queensland. After employment as a law clerk with Henderson & Lahey (Solicitors) in 1980, he commenced practise as a barrister at the private bar in 1981. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1992. He served as a Council Member (2005–06), Vice President (2006–07) and President (2007–08) of the Bar Association of Queensland, Director of the Law Council of Australia (2007–08) and Honorary Treasurer of the Australian Bar Association (2007–08).

He was appointed a Judge of the Queensland Court of Appeal on 30 January 2008 and served in that capacity until his retirement on 16 July 2022. From 2009 to 2017 he served as Chair of the Supreme Court Library Committee, and he served as Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland from 1 to 24 July 2015. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.

About the lecture series

Origin of the Macrossan Memorial Lectureship

On 7 August 1925, the Macrossan family donated £2000 to The University of Queensland, under a deed of trust, to fund an annual lecture on subjects of public interest. It was the first lectureship of its kind established in Queensland. Pursuant to the terms of the trust, it was “the duty of the John Murtagh Macrossan lecturer to lecture in Brisbane on some subject to be approved by the Senate relating to— (a) the life and work of any person, not living at the time of the lecture, who has rendered distinguished service in public life to Australia or any of the Australian States and Colonies; (b) Australian History; (c) Political Economy; (d) Sociology; (e) Science; (f) Law ; (g) Art; or (h) Literature”.

Macrossan Memorial Lectures

In March 1928, the first John Macrossan Memorial Lecturers were announced by the UQ Senate. Both were lawyers. Mr WA Holman KC was to give a series of two lectures in the Albert Hall in Brisbane, in April 1928, on the subject of “The Australian Constitution: Its Interpretation and Amendment”. Mr JG Latham, who was later to become the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, was to give another series of two lectures in the Albert Hall in Brisbane, in November 1928, on the subject of “Australia and the British Commonwealth”. From 1928 to 1993, Macrossan Lectures were given almost every year by distinguished Australians on a broad range of topics of public interest. Many of the lecturers were notable lawyers, including Mr Justice HV Evatt (1936), Mr Acting Justice AD Graham (1938), Sir Thomas Bavin (1940), and Sir Victor Windeyer (1976). Most of these lectures were individually published – but were never collected in a single volume. From 1952, the lectures began to be given at the St Lucia campus, rather than in the city. By 1993, however, the Macrossan Memorial Fund appears to have been exhausted and the lectures ceased.

John Murtagh Macrossan

John Murtagh Macrossan (1833-91) was born in County Donegal in Ireland and emigrated to Australia at the age of 20 to seek his fortune in the gold rushes. By 1865, he had moved to North Queensland, where he became a leading figure amongst the miners. In 1873, he became a member of the Legislative Assembly and commenced a long career in politics (1873-91). He served two terms in the government, as Secretary for Public Works and Mines (1879-83, 1888-90) and a short term as Colonial Secretary and Secretary for Mines (1890). He died whilst representing Queensland, with Sir Samuel Griffith, at the Australasian National Convention in Sydney in March 1891. The Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB) observes that “Macrossan emerged as one of the earliest and ablest of the apostles of Federation. Contemporaries have recorded his fervent, infectious enthusiasm and clear grasp of principles. In the convention debates he stands out for his knowledge and admiration of American precedent. Bernhard Wise and Alfred Deakin recorded that he was a quiet speaker but stress the detail and incisiveness of his argument.”

In 1874, Macrossan married Bridget Queely in Townsville. They had eight children – with four of the children becoming practising lawyers. Remarkably, three of his descendants served as Chief Justice of Queensland.

John Michael Macrossan (1877-1926) was a solicitor who became a partner of the Brisbane firm of Bergin, Papi and Macrossan.

Hugh Denis Macrossan (1881-1940) was a graduate of the University of Sydney, who became a barrister, a Judge of the Supreme Court (1926) and then Chief Justice of Queensland (1940).

Vincent Eugene James Macrossan (1883-1969) was a solicitor, who founded the firm of Macrossan & Amiet in Mackay (1920) and then the firm of Macnish & Macrossan in Brisbane (1952). He was the father of John Murtagh Macrossan, who became a barrister and then a Judge of the Supreme Court (1980) and Chief Justice of Queensland (1989-98).

Neal William Macrossan (1889-1955) was one of Queensland’s first Rhodes Scholars, who graduated in law from the University of Oxford (Magdalen College). He married the daughter of a leading Queensland businessman, TC Beirne, and after a long career at the bar in Queensland, became a Judge of the Supreme Court (1940) and then Chief Justice of Queensland (1946-55). His grandchildren include former Justice Hugh Fraser of the Queensland Court of Appeal, and his brother, Don Fraser KC.

NW Macrossan, and his father-in-law, TC Beirne, were instrumental in the establishment of the Law School at The University of Queensland.