President's Message


Yesterday many of us attended ANZAC day services to both remember and thank those who served and died in war, veterans, those in active service and our reservists. I was privileged to be invited yesterday to attend a small and thoughtful service where, on behalf of the bar, I was able to thank former Bar Association President (1973-1975) (also former Attorney General of Australia (1969-1971)), Tom Hughes AO KC, for his service to our country and to the NSW Bar.

Tom is well known as a formidable barrister, with exceptional skills in trial and appellate advocacy, whose mesmerising and forensic cross-examination style is legendary. Less well known about Tom and many of our veterans is that he saw active service in World War II, in Tom’s case as a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force. Tom is 99 years old and will turn 100 this year. He is our oldest living veteran member of the Bar Association. He flew Sunderlands, known as ‘flying boats’, tracking enemy submarines from the air in the war. Tom's recorded oral history is available on the Bar Association's website, with Part 3 covering the topic of “Flying Sunderlands". Tom speaks with extreme modesty of his service, despite being adorned with multiple honours including the Australia Service Medal 1939-45, the Centenary Medal and the highest military and civil honour awarded by France, the Ordre national de la Legion D’honneur (the Legion of Honour).

Tom was not alone in his bravery in the Second World War. Tony Cuneen, in a project for the Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History, documented that “at least a third of all barristers were on war related service” in 1943 and that “Two hundred ex-serviceman were admitted to the bar after the war. Of the 300 barristers who had war service, at least 117 became judges”.

Barristers continued to serve in our army, air force and navy and as reservists both at war and in peace time. They also served prior to WWII, including notably, New Zealander Percy Valentine Storkey who was a member of the NSW Bar and Bench, and earned the Victoria Cross on 7 April 1918. There are numerous articles that have documented the history of the bar and the armed services which are available here.

On behalf of the NSW Bar, I thank our barristers and members for their extraordinary contributions through such service, both past and present.

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