Ian McClelland Barker (1935-2021)



Ian Barker QC, former president of the New South Wales Bar Association, died yesterday.

Barker’s legal career began in 1952 with his articles of clerkship at Dairy Farmers. After passing the Solicitors Admissions Board exam, he worked as a solicitor in Katoomba, before moving to Alice Springs in 1961.

It was during this formative stage in his legal career that Barker grew to love the Northern Territory and the many challenges it presented. In 1963 the partner in his firm retired to Adelaide, leaving him as the only legal practitioner between Port Augusta and Darwin. In Alice Springs Barker also developed a passionate belief in the rule of law, and how the law can help - and at times oppress - the disadvantaged, the poor and the Indigenous members of society.

He moved to Darwin in 1970 and took silk in 1974. The Northern Territory was granted self-government in 1978 and following an invitation from the chief minister, Paul Everingham, Barker was appointed as the Territory’s first solicitor-general in July of that year. It was in that capacity that he played an important part in the creation of Kakadu National Park.

Barker resigned in July 1980 and moved to Sydney. He returned briefly to the Territory to prosecute Lindy Chamberlain for the alleged murder of her baby Azaria at Uluru in August 1980.

Ian practised out of Frederick Jordan Chambers for his entire time at the New South Wales Bar. He served as president of the New South Wales Bar Association between 1997 and 1999, during which time he was an outspoken defender of judicial independence. Following the attacks of September 11, Barker became an incisive critic of Australia’s anti-terrorism laws.

Barker was appointed as a life member of the Bar Association in 2001 and retired from the New South Wales Bar in 2017.

Barker will be cremated at a private ceremony. A full obituary will be published in the next edition of Bar News.

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