ORAL HISTORIES INTERVIEW
The Honourable Terry Worthington QC
By Lindy McNamara on 23 June 2017
This is an interview with Terry Worthington, QC, by Lindy McNamara. The date is the 23rd of June 2017.
Terry, can we start with your full name and date of birth, please?
My full name is Terence Anthony Worthington, born 24 April 1943.
And where were you born?
In Brisbane. My mother was a native of Brisbane. My father, who came from Sydney just before the war, had gone up to Brisbane to play rugby for Valley, which was one of the teams up there. When the war started, he joined the 2nd/9th Battalion, which was a Queensland Battalion, because he happened to be there at the time. And then, as a result of that, on leave, he met my mother and along the way, I came along - probably during one of those back from overseas leaves.
And the names of your parents?
Tony and Iris.
What sort of work were they doing, post-war?
Dad was quite a good artist, but more in the graphic art side of things then, as I understand it, called commercial art. When he came back from the war, he wasn't as interested in doing that, although he kept his hand in, just on a casual basis. He got a job in marketing at News Corporation, in Sydney, where we went after the war, and then moved to Adelaide where he became Promotions Manager and then Assistant Advertising Manager. So, when I was about 12, we moved to Adelaide.
Mum had worked in a one of the big stores in Brisbane, and after marriage, spent her time being a full-time mum.
Where did you do your primary and your secondary schooling?
We lived in Fairlight, which is virtually part of Manly, next to Manly, and I went to school in Balgowlah, at the local convent school, St Cecilia's. Then I went to Christian Brothers College in Manly until what would be the equivalent here of second year. Then we moved to Adelaide, and I went to Sacred Heart College at Somerton Park.
Your Catholic faith was obviously quite strong as a child. You went into the seminary, I believe.
I did. I'd always had it in my mind that that was something I'd like to do. In those days, we're talking now the 1960s, the seminary here, St Francis Xavier Seminary, was just out behind Rostrevor College. I did two and half years of philosophy, before I realised that, really, as necessary a job that it might be for the community, it wasn't for me, so I left.
When you left, did you have in your mind that you wanted to study law?
No. I didn't quite know what I wanted to do, but while I'd been there, I became good friends with Philip Kennedy who had been a lawyer - I don't know how many years he'd been in practice. It wouldn't have been very long. He was a bit older than I was. He had gone in to study to be a priest, and he did eventually become a priest and became a bishop here in Adelaide. He spoke about law, just in the course of general chit chat, and the things he told me got me very interested. Shortly after I left the seminary, I followed that up and thought I'd give it a go and see how it went. It turned out I loved it, and stayed with it.
In those early years, when you were studying, you were also working at the same time. Is that right?
I was. My family was not flush enough with money, with a number of children, to give me a second go at tertiary education. So although they supported me in every way, I got a job in the GPO as a clerk in the telephone department, and I worked. The Commonwealth government would give you five hours a week for lectures, including travelling time, as it was emphasised to me, between the post office and the university. That's what I did for the first year, from the post office, and then I got a job as a law clerk and a half scholarship at the Crown Law Office.
Reg Kearnan was the Crown Solicitor. I moved over to there and he was very generous in his approach not only to me, but other students. He really gave us quite a bit of time to study, and complete access to the Crown Law library, of course during hours, but even after hours. You really were well-supplied with resources. All you had to do was find the energy to use them.
Some of the students that you were at university with, at the time - were there any lawyers of note that we would -
Well, yes, quite a number in our year, for example, Bruce Lander, he was there. There were some ahead of me, some behind, but quite a lot of lawyers well known now in Adelaide, were at university at the same time as I was. Bear in mind that in those days, there was a big dropout rate, in first year law you were looking at about 100 to 120 students, but only probably 40 or 50 would go through to admission, for all sorts of reasons. They maybe did not want to get admitted, or maybe moved off into a different degree, or dropped out.
You were admitted in 1969?
That sounds about right.
Where did you do your articles?
When I was studying part-time, I was working at the Crown Law Office initially as a law clerk. In those days, you did two years articles, if you were doing a degree, so I then entered into articles, with Reg Kearnan as my principal. After he retired, those articles were transferred to Andrew Wells, so I did my articles at the Crown Law Office. It was always called Crown Law in those days. It's not so much now.
Once you were admitted, where did you go to work, after that?
I got a job at Ward & Partners. I actually got a job at Ward Mollison Litchfield & Ward, but that firm broke up at that time. I hope it had nothing to do with the fact that I was going there. It then became Mollison Litchfield as one firm and Ward & Partners the other, and it was Ward & Partners that invited me to go with them. I started there in 1969.
Who were some of the partners there at the time?
The three partners at Wards were Bob Ward, Gerry Ward and Kevin Ward. Kevin and Gerry were brothers, and Bob was their cousin. They were the three capital partners, and then John McElhinney - I think we were called 'managing clerks' as young solicitors in those days - was one. He was a year ahead of me, and then myself. The articled clerks were Tim Anderson and Tony Rice, who became first year solicitors the following year.
What sort of work were you doing? What areas of the law were you concentrating on?
Pretty general civil. In the early days I did some defence work in the Magistrates Court and I did a little bit of criminal prosecution on brief from the Crown Prosecutor’s Office. The work of the firm was mainly civil, and it was general civil. I virtually inherited the practice of Michael Ward, a younger brother of Kevin and Gerry, who had moved on and gone to another firm at the time the old partnership dissolved. So, general civil, commercial, with a heavy emphasis on insurance related matters.
Who was your mentor in those early days? Was there someone that you looked towards?
At the firm, all three of those partners were very much mentors. Probably, I brought with me the benefit of having had Brian Cox as a supervisor and a mentor at the Crown Law Office when I'd been a clerk, and then, more particularly, once I was in articles, when you had a limited right of appearance in the Magistrates Court. Brian was terrific in that he knew I was interested in court work, and in suitable cases he would encourage me and work it so that I could appear. Malcolm Gray would do that too. This also involved a bit of travel to the country on circuit, doing those cases. It got you vertical in a courtroom, and if the wind was blowing against you, you knew all about it.
What did you enjoy about the court work and appearing in court?
I don't know, actually. I just enjoyed it. I found it interesting. I found it challenging. I couldn't identify any one thing. It just suited me. I won't say I always felt comfortable in court - I often felt very nervous, particularly if I had a wobbly case, but even without that, some of those old magistrates could be a bit fierce. But anyway, you have to learn to live with that.
Are there any cases of note in those early years that you were involved with?
Not particularly. I think I was just grateful for the opportunity to be in court. I don't think I did anything world shattering, but I enjoyed being there. You got the opportunity, in those days, because of the volume - I'm talking in the civil sphere here - you got the opportunity to appear in the Supreme Court, because there were only two courts, the Magistrates' Court and the Supreme Court. I think our age group was very fortunate, particularly those interested in doing court work because we were thrown into the big pond at a fairly early stage, I have to say with mixed results.
Any lessons that you learnt early on, about appearing in court?
Plenty. Many were drawn to my attention, particularly a badly put argument. One of the ones that stuck in my mind was the difference in appearing before certain judicial officers. It's one thing to be robust but I never understood why some felt obliged to try and put people down, and I must say that stuck with me, that was an unfortunate aspect of some appearances. I won't go into - it doesn't matter who it was. It was a common experience.
Something that you could perhaps draw on later in your career?
Yes, it is for others to judge whether I did that usefully or not, but it's certainly something I remained conscious of.
You went to the independent bar in 1985?
What prompted that decision?
The independent bar had flourished, in terms of growing, towards the end of the 1970s. Tim Anderson left Ward & Partners and went to Hanson Chambers with David Quick, John Mansfield and John Doyle at the time. There was a bit of a move around town. Jeffcott Chambers where I finished up at the end of 1984, had started in 1982. I was happy as I was at Ward & Partners but I was attracted to the idea of doing the work of a barrister, i.e. opinions and court appearances.
I enjoyed that. To be able to devote your time to that side of it. There's a good chance that if you are able to devote that time you're going to improve in both the level of performance, and perhaps the level of enjoyment. For good or bad, there was a risk involved because no one might brief if you decided to give it a go.
Who was at Jeffcott Chambers when you joined?
There were 12 of us. John von Doussa was the Head of Chambers, Ted Mullighan, Bruce Lander, Malcolm Robertson, Robert Lawson, David Smith, Tony Besanko, Andrew Harris, Geoff Muecke, David Bleby and Neil Lowrie. If you add me, that should be about 12.
There must have been some very interesting conversations in the lunchroom at that place.
There certainly were. Certain judicial officers' ears would burn. I'm sure that all of us, as we left one by one to go to the Bench, I'm sure we were traduced in the same fashion in the Jeffcott library. It was a really lovely group to be part of, and to work with. We've always kept in touch since, and we have reunions and so on, not only just that 12, but with those who followed.
Was being a barrister everything that you thought it would be?
Yes, it was. I really enjoyed it. As you pointed out a moment ago, I took silk in 1988.
You obviously were making your mark - and the Queen's Counsel with that as your list of achievements.
I guess so. I'm not the one who signs off on it, but anyway, that happened.
You did some work on the State Bank Royal Commission, is that right?
I did. I was retained for SGIC, so mine was not a big part. I couldn’t tell you exactly how long I was appearing in the Royal Commission, but it was some months. But part of that was wearing two hats. Hugh Rowell who was then with Stratford & Co, was my instructing solicitor and junior. He, to some extent, held the fort once the main focus had moved because I was by then involved in doing the Minister of Tourism Inquiry.
That was Barbara Weise?
There was a bit of overlap there in terms of timing; not a huge overlap, but there was some overlap. Yes, Barbara Weise.
Any other cases that you think back on, now, that you were involved with?
One of the more interesting ones, not of great judicial moment, was a matter called Rosecrance v Rosecrance. It was a Californian couple, who'd been out here in the Northern Territory. The wife was driving the car and Doctor Rosecrance, who was a university professor from Utah, was in the back not wearing a seatbelt and she rolled the car and he was shockingly injured. There was an action in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory against the Territory Insurance Office. I was retained by Darwin solicitors as counsel for the Territory Insurance Office.
The case on contributory negligence was heard in Darwin, but on quantum, because there were so many expert witnesses both as to the injuries and as to his work - I won't bore you with the detail about that - it was cheaper to take the court from Darwin - Dean Mildren was the judge - to California than it was to transport all these witnesses from California - not only California, but from the USA - to Australia. So, the benefit was we got to go to the USA and of all places, sitting in the courthouse of the Superior Court of California, in Santa Barbara, which of course is one of God's own places. It was both challenging and interesting, as well as the novelty of appearing away from Australia.
A bit of a landmark case in that respect of being a travelling court.
It was. I mean, it's done from time to time. It was also - and I say this with some trepidation as being the defendant - the then biggest award of damages, I think it was something like six million US dollars. It went on appeal here to the Court of Appeal in the Northern Territory, and there was fiddling done, but basically it was that sort of figure, I think, in the end. It was interesting. One of the things that really got the US visitors to the courtroom, completely in hysterics, was all the bowing we go on with, whereas there, they just wander in and out and nobody bows to the bench.
Not quite as formal.
No, certainly not.
As a barrister, were you being pigeon holed into certain types of cases?
I did a lot of matters related to personal injury, or damages - they might be as a result of road accidents, or they might be the result of medical negligence or other things. In terms of any one area, that was a dominant area, for sure. But other civil, general civil, I did, particularly professional negligence of various types; whether they resulted in personal injuries, or not, that type of thing. Toxic tort - the last case I did before I was appointed, was for the manufacturer of a drug which was alleged to have caused horrific injuries to a child, but the finding was that it wasn't the drug itself, but how it had been administered.
In 1995 you were appointed a judge in the District Court. Can you tell me how that transpired?
I was asked by Trevor Griffin who was the Attorney at that time. He contacted me, but I was in the middle of doing the medical negligence, toxic tort case, in Canberra because it was in the ACT Supreme Court, and just at that point in the trial I couldn't leave. He was kind enough to say - I decided that yes, okay, I would like to do that, but I said I couldn't do it at that stage, and if it meant that I have to say, "Yes, I would do it straight away," then I couldn't. Anyway, he said that within reason, he would wait and the government did for a couple of months, and then I was appointed.
What was life like as a judge?
Very different; it's very different from trying to persuade someone of the rightness of your argument, to being the one who's got to decide whether it is right or not, or who's going to win the day. But I enjoyed it very much.
Any advice given to you before you started your work there?
Interestingly, Brian Cox comes into the picture again. We saw each other at the court. I was down there, for some reason, because Jeffcott Chambers was right next door to the Supreme Court, and he congratulated me, which was generous of him, and he said, "Just remember two things. If you don't know the answer, leave the bench. They can't go on without you." And he said, “the second thing is, you know where my room is."
So, you felt like you were going in with a bit of a safety net?
Yes, that's right. Luckily, I didn't have to rely on the second one, but his offer was genuine.
Two years after that, you were appointed the Chief Judge. How did that come about?
Well, it came about, I guess like anyone, in a phone conversation with the Attorney-General. On the day Don Brebner retired, I got a message to ask me, through his office, could I ring the Attorney, and I did. Then he asked me, and it went from there.
So, how did things change for you going just from being a judge to being the Chief Judge?
Prior to being the Chief Judge, I was 100 per cent of the time, judicial time, in court. It's not a nine to five job - a lot of it is outside of court, writing judgments or preparing sentences or doing whatever you did, preparing addresses to the jury, summing up. It went to a situation where a large proportion of your time was the administrative function of the Chief Judge, because there are two things.
One, you're running your court, but you are also a member of the Courts Administration Authority, so, whilst in no way the sort of time demanded of someone like John Doyle, as both the Chief Justice and Chairman of that authority, it still took up quite a bit of your time. I think, probably, at first it worked out that about 30 per cent of my time was administrative. I didn’t keep a close tab on it, but that changed over time with the administrative aspect taking more time, a bigger percentage, so there was a division of time between the administrative and the judicial.
Did you enjoy that?
Yes I did, yes. Of course, it had its frustrations. You didn't always get your way, but I'd had administrative functions before, and by and large felt comfortable with them.
What were some of the challenges when you took over the position, facing the courts?
Just speaking generally, the courts were on the lookout for more resources. More particularly for the District Court, there was clearly a big increase coming in both civil and criminal. Civil was well behind, and we got that pretty well under control. Criminal was then developing at a very rapid rate and that was a challenge. I can’t say we ever completely mastered it. In fact, it hasn't been mastered yet, but I guess there's a limit to what you can do. It depends on the resources you've got.
On the civil side of things, how did you manage to get that under control?
My predecessor had introduced - he and Len King were leaders in Australia in their approach to pre-trial procedures. So, in my case, with the District Court, I took what Don Brebner had developed, but changed it to meet the new circumstances. In fact, it meant reducing the number of appearances. I was concerned at the cost involved for the parties of too many pre-trial appearances. Whether the matter resolved before trial or not, I thought it was getting a bit too much like the tail wagging the dog.
Now, that's not being critical of the system, but just concern about the sheer volume and turnover that that was developing. So, without going into the detail, I took various steps to trim that, and we got the average number of pre-trial appearances back to about a third of what they'd been, but allowing a bit longer in between to try and give parties the opportunity to actually follow through on what they were supposed to have done, because with the best will in the world, that did not always happen.
What were some of the other things, looking back now, that you implemented during your time as Chief Judge?
I've never sat down and just thought about achievements, I don’t know. There were lots of changes. They weren't necessarily cataclysmic at the time, but it's the accumulation of events. It's not just the Chief Judge. It's working with the judges of the court, the masters, and the registry to make things happen.
It was an ongoing process and sometimes the changes were slight, but if you looked back over a period of 12 months, they were quite significant, even things like - you have to over-list. If you listed according to one judge, per case, per day, we would have had a waiting list of years to get matters on. You can't do that, because a percentage will resolve, or not go on, or whatever. For instance, with say criminal matters, what general formula would the registry apply to listing, at any particular time? That had to be watched very carefully because even a variation of five per cent over-list could make a significant difference to the number not reached, either up or down, so that's a small example. It required close liaison with registry, and we had, I assume still have, very good registry staff at the Court.
The time from something going to court was reduced, in your time?
Yes. We already had criminal directions hearings. They were well established. They also were supported by the court rules. I wanted to bring in something that would sharpen that up, but there was no way of knowing whether it was going to improve matters or not, or even make it more difficult, who knows? So I brought in this system of what are called special directions hearings, because the rules that were already in existence could apply to them, with just a bit of fine tuning in how they were applied, and if it didn't work, you didn't have to rewrite a whole lot of rules. We did that on a pilot basis for a couple of years, and it worked quite well. That's now been changed in another way, but it sort of followed from that.
What about when you first went on as a judge, the public perception of the court system - do you think that changed at all, over your time? Did you make an effort to be more accessible to the media, for example?
I was always accessible within reason. Not about individual cases because that would not be appropriate, but about the court, or general principles, and so on yes I was. I think the real credit for what was developed between the media, the public and the courts goes to John Doyle who was not only very available, and went on air, or in print as needed, but he was the mastermind behind those meetings we had with various representatives of the public, the media, and so on: ‘Courts Consulting the Community.’
There were a couple during our time, and they involved a survey and then a getting together to talk about the results and so on, and they were big exercises. It was his idea and his skill that made that happen. The courts, generally, were very conscious of those matters. There's a limit to how far you can adjust - you can't adjust your approach in results or sentences, if it's criminal, to suit public perceptions, you've got to apply the law. By the same token, those meetings showed that the confidence level in the courts from the general public was pretty good. Not perfect, by any means, but general surveys showed that.
And I guess as the chief judge, you also had to provide support for your fellow judges. Did you find that they often came to you with concerns about perhaps media perception of a sentence they may have?
There were times when that happened, yes. I would discuss things with judges, not about the rights and wrongs. No one would ever ask you, "What do I do?" They're judges, they're completely independent; it wouldn’t occur to them for that to happen. But in terms of, sometimes, the treatment by the media of what they had done - yes, there could be discussions about that, and it's on the record that I, as well as other heads of jurisdiction, have gone public to try and correct a perception that might be wrong, out there. Sometimes the perception was perfectly correct, it just wasn't popular; well there's nothing we can do about that.
And, on that, courts have got to expect criticism, but the important thing is that it be informed criticism. It's when it's hopelessly wrong that the real problems arise, because people get a false impression of what's going on. If one looks at the volume - if we just take sentences, which of course can be a contentious subject - if you look at the volume that is done on even a daily basis, and the number that create any controversy, it's a very small fraction.
Do you find yourself frustrated if you're reading the morning newspaper and you see the outrage that is in the pages, and you obviously know the story behind that?
Yes, I think that would apply not only to judges but people in all walks of life. But I must say, for all of that, yes, sometimes, for whatever reason, media reports would not accurately reflect what happened in court. There were at least some guidelines there, but I guess now it's a bit different with social media. There's no supervision at all, so the risk of it happening is still there.
Perhaps we could talk about the changes in your time in the profession, as being a lawyer, and then a barrister, and then a judge, the changes in the profession with technology. You would have seen some extreme advances and perhaps some for the better, and some not.
Certainly, in technology; when I started as a clerk at the Crown Law Office, we had the old Gestetner with the wax paper and you'd wind that to get a copy and then, in my early days at Ward & Partners photocopiers had come in. But the typing had to be done with carbon copies, and if a mistake or an alteration was made, it meant doing it all again.
Then we moved from that to word processor and then of course, beyond that to what we have now, although it's even more refined. So, it's been a huge change in technology there. The ability to research has gone from paper to being able to do it online. The problem there might be that there's almost too much information available and it's a matter of counsel being in a position, if they're going to refer to authorities, to make sure that it is a useful authority and not just an example of something that's happened somewhere else, which is not helpful to the court at all.
And then mobile phones came in.
Yes, and everyone became much more available.
So, you retired in 2013. Looking back, what would you like to think of as your legacy, as Chief Judge?
I haven't really given that any thought. [Pause] I suppose, having been a good custodian of the court during the time it was in my care.
Let's turn now, to your time with the Law Society, because you became a member of the Law Society, as most people did, as soon as you were admitted.
That was in 1969, but then you joined several committees you got going in 1971, I believe. You joined the Public Relations and Functions Committee.
Why did you think it was so important, at the time of your career, to get involved with the Law Society?
I could see that the Law Society was not only a necessary organisation, but a very useful one, and the area of public relations was one that was very much in its infancy. Cyril Nancarrow was the Chairman of that Committee. The circumstances in which I became a member, I can't really recall, but I remember talking to Cyril about it and thinking, 'That would be a good committee to be on'. The Society had always been conscious of the issues of community, of community issues, but it was getting more emphasis then, and I found it interesting to be on. Eventually, I became chairman of that Committee, some five or six years later.
Some of the other committees you were on, would you like to talk about some of those?
Well, there was the Library Committee. I was on that for a few years. The Insurance Monitoring Committee, which dealt generally with insurance type matters that related to the Society, indemnity insurance. The No Fault Accident Compensation Committee. That was at a time when the government of the day was moving to introduce statutory amendments to the common law approach to damages, and that being an area that I was involved in, was a committee on which I thought I had something to offer. Maybe the Society thought I had something to offer, I'm not sure, but I was on that for some years. By then, I think I was probably a vice president, I think, from memory.
The Discipline Committee, as it was called, or Professional Conduct and Practice Committee, as it became - I was on that, and I eventually became chairman of that. That was while I was a vice president, I think.
And your presidency, obviously you held other positions leading up to being president, but 1985 and 1986?
Just when you were starting out as a barrister as well?
Yes, that's right. In fact, I became president just after I'd signed up, so to speak, at Jeffcott Chambers. I knew that was on the horizon, in terms of two things happening. The opportunity at Jeffcott; a vacancy became available and I was particularly interested in going to those chambers. It also had the advantage that I was not asking my firm to support me during the period of my presidency, when I wouldn't be able to contribute as much because of the demands of the job at the Law Society, in which case I would not have felt free to go to the bar for quite some time afterwards.
Can you talk about the demands of being President, time-wise and some of the issues that you were dealing with at the time?
Time wise, it varied, of course, depending on whether there was a contentious issue on, or whether life was just chugging along. I've never tried to put a percentage on it, but overall it would be somewhere between a third and a half of your practising time, or your available time. During a period of contention, it could be close to 100 per cent. For instance, one of the issues that arose during my term, that came to a head, was the statutory intervention in the common law system of damages, which resulted in changes, but there were some very unsatisfactory ideas.
There's often an accusation that lawyers are just looking after themselves, because, in terms of a group, they've got an interest. Well, of course, they have, but there's a public interest as well, and some of the proposals that were coming up for damages were clearly not in the public interest, and that was recognised by changes that were made to the bills. I can't remember now, in great detail, at what stage various things happened. But changes were made as a result of representations made by the Law Society, which, in my view, were to the benefit of the community. At the same time, the government was able to achieve changes that they had in mind, and as President, you were the one with your chin out and you were the one who got hit.
Were there some heated discussions with the government during that time?
They were never heated, but they were serious.
Were you surprised, then, when you were offered to be appointed to the bench?
Well, I was surprised to be offered, but not for the reason you're suggesting.
What about other issues that you can recall dealing with, as a president of the Society?
There were always issues. I can't, now, bring to mind - I guess I could if I sat down and thought about that, but I can't, now, bring to mind particular issues. In terms of occupying time, there was nothing as demanding as the one I've just mentioned, the modifications to the common law. But there were always issues, all the way from professional indemnity insurance to issues of wider public interest.
Did you enjoy the year [as President]?
I did, yes. I enjoyed being part of the Law Society, and being involved in contributing to that. Yes, I did. It was, certainly, during that time as President, it was very demanding, but even before that, as Treasurer and Vice President, and I'd been involved with various committees as Chairman.
You were also, we should mention, Chairman of the Legal Services Commission.
I think you took over from John Doyle. Is that correct?
I did, yes.
Yes, Chris Sumner was the Attorney at the time. I was the immediate past president, at that time, and he rang me and asked me if I would be agreeable to being appointed chairman, and I didn't hesitate in agreeing to do that. The demands of the Law Society on my time were negligible at that stage. I was still involved as SA representative on the Law Council of Australia, but that was not particularly demanding, and I was happy to take over, because John had become Solicitor General.
He agreed to continue until I finished my term as immediate past president, because I remember thinking, 'There could be a bit of a conflict here,' because there were issues where the Legal Services Commission and the Law Society were not at one. There was that short delay so that there was no potential for that conflict, and then, as it happened, I was on there for quite a while.
Any other appointments of note that we've missed out on discussing?
Well, I had various things, I suppose, but a number of them arose out of my Law Society commitments, like being on the Board of Examiners of the Supreme Court or my involvement with Law Council of Australia. As a result of being on the Legal Services Commission, I went on the National Legal Aid Representative Council. It was a Commonwealth body and I was Chairman of that for a couple of years.
One of the other things that I really enjoyed being involved in was as a part-time Commissioner to hear human rights inquiries, with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. As it was then structured, there was this hearing system - Sir Ronald Wilson was the President of the Human Rights Commission at the time, and he rang me and asked me if I would be one of a group of about five or six, I think, from various states - if I would be prepared to hear cases, and I agreed. You did that on a purely part-time, ad hoc basis, and that was very interesting. I did that for about five years. I stopped when I was appointed a judge.
What type of cases?
It varied - they could be as a result of racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, in relation to employment, any of the areas of discrimination. I don't know how many I heard. There wasn't a huge number, but probably half a dozen or more.
Outside of law, you must have a very understanding wife, who supported you for a very long number of years.
Yes, we have five children and now numerous grandchildren.
You married Jill in 1970?
Any followed your footsteps into law?
No, I think they've probably got more sense. They've done different things: teaching, marketing, art, copywriting. There's a broad spectrum amongst them.
And how do you spend your time, since retirement? What are some of your interests?
I've done some Law Society related matters, and perhaps not just Law Society, but legally related matters like seminars on a pro bono basis. Some involvement there, guest speaking - that's more in relation to the law itself. When I retired, there was something I'd always had in the back of my mind that I'd like to try, and that was drawing and art. So, I've taken that up, and I go to a weekly tutoring session on that. I'm not sure the results, in any way, reflect the effort I put into it, but I enjoy that.
Landscapes or -
Well, just being able to get a pencil to do on the paper what you want it to do. The tutor I've got is a retired art teacher, and we do it one-on-one, and so, the approach is to be able to draw, whether it is landscape, perspective, or faces. So, drawing and then moving on from that, to be able to do more complex things and so on. I'm still in the process of learning, and enjoying it, too. Plus, Jill and I have always enjoyed travelling. Our last trip was to South America, where we spent five weeks in various countries, particularly, in the high country in Peru, which was fascinating. It was all interesting and perhaps exciting, but that was particularly so, including Machu Picchu. Going across Lake Titicaca in a catamaran from Peru to Bolivia, that was fascinating, yes.
I think I read somewhere that you enjoy swimming, or you used to enjoy swimming?
I do. I still enjoy swimming - probably not as vigorously as I did when I was - a few a years ago, but I still enjoy getting my boogie board out and going surfing, although I haven't done it much recently. I like that and I enjoy music of varying kinds. Reading - I've always been an avid reader, and I enjoy football and cricket.
Yes, regrettably, after last night against Hawthorn.
That wasn't so good.
We didn't play very well, I must say, but yes, Jill and I are both members at the football, and also SACA, the cricket.
What about during your time - you obviously had a young family and you were working hard, and you had a lot of not only work commitments, but Law Society commitments as well. How did you manage that work life balance, because that seems to be an area that some young lawyers struggle with today?
To be honest, I don't think I gave it much thought. It certainly wasn't generally a matter that I was conscious of in those days, and I think I'm right in saying many of us weren't. There's a much healthier approach to that now. So, I can't answer that, in terms of balance, but you did what you had to do and we got there. The day to day load with the family very much fell on Jill's shoulders. She had been a teacher prior to having children and became full-time, looking after the children.
So, you weren't one of these people that would get up at five in the morning to try and fit everything in a day?
I'd get up six. Even then I didn’t quite manage it. [laughs]
So, looking back on a very productive career, what's your impressions of being a lawyer?
I'm very happy that I chose to go with law, and stay with it. I found it very fulfilling in various ways, as a practitioner and as a judge, but very fulfilling in the latter period to be the decision maker, as distinct from trying to persuade a decision maker, and my involvement as the Head of Jurisdiction. I enjoyed that. It certainly was extremely challenging. I enjoyed my involvement with the Law Society, over many years. A lot of people give to make things like that work, to the benefit of us all, including the community - it's nice to be able to put something back.
And your best advice to a young lawyer, starting out today - what would that be?
I'm not sure, except to say work hard and be professional in your approach.
On that note, thank you very much, Terry. It's been a delight to chat with you.
Lindy, thank you.
As an addendum to the interview with Terry Worthington, we're just going to chat about his time of a potential near death experience.
Well, not, perhaps fortunately, not that bad, but I was doing a circuit at Port Augusta. I can't remember exactly which year it was, but it must have been around about 2005, or thereabouts. I had listed myself on the circuit, and - on arraignment day, as we structured it then, I got a plane from Adelaide at about eight am to fly to Port Augusta. My secretary and court staff had already gone up, the day before, to set up the court. I had an arraignment list of about 55 or 60, due to start at 10 o'clock.
It was, I think, Airlines of South Australia, or whoever it was, I'm not sure, but anyhow, it was a plane carrying about nine people - a small plane, twin engine. And we took off, and all went well, until we got to Port Augusta and the pilot could not, for the life of him, get the landing gear down. So, we were over Port Augusta. Regrettably for her, my secretary, Loretta - she was my secretary for the whole time I was a judge - was at the airport and the conversation between the pilot and the airport was coming over the loudspeaker.
There happened to be an engineer on board the flight, nothing to do with anything other than coincidence, who had the manual out and was hand pumping the hydraulics, to try and get the undercarriage down. Anyhow, the end result was they couldn't, so we had to burn off fuel so the pilot could do a crash landing. Obviously, we couldn’t stay up there forever. We went round and round over Port Augusta for nearly two hours, I think, burning off fuel. There was no facility for dumping fuel. I had never - and still have never been - inside Baxter Detention Centre, but we flew over it that many times, I feel as though I know it.
The other extraordinary thing was, as we did, of course the land is very flat up there, we could see ambulances, fire trucks, police cars coming from the various towns, towards the airport. Each time we went round, there'd be another fire truck or something coming, so, we knew what was ahead of us. Anyway, the pilot went round and round and finally he said, "Well, I've got to go in now." He said, "I think I've burnt off as much as I can. If I go around one more time, we mightn't quite make the circuit," so, in he went.
As we landed, he just cut the motors, as we approached the landing strip, he told us to assume the crash position, and all the rest of it, and instructed us how, if all went well, we were to get out of the plane, if anything happened to him, which window to push out. He landed it on the runway, and I can still remember looking and seeing bits of propeller flying through the air - even though they had stopped spinning apart from the movement of the air on the blades. And we scraped along the runway, and thank God, nothing - and we were conscious that alongside there were fire trucks.
We stayed on the bitumen landing strip. He had said he couldn’t go on the grass, because it had been very wet, and he was worried we might dig in and spin over. Anyhow, we came to a halt and we all looked at each other and I thought, 'Well, there we are. We're still here.' Whereupon the pilot who was fine, said, "Right, out." So, we pushed out the window over the wing and climbed out, all unharmed.
What was going through your mind as you were doing those endless circles in the air for two hours?
Well, I must say, I thought, 'There's nothing I can do,' and I had a book, and I was reading. I wouldn't say that I was completely 100 per cent focused on the book. I was conscious of what was going on, but you're just so helpless. You think, 'Well, let's just hope it goes all right.' Anyway, we went to court, not straight away. By now, it was around about one - oh, half past 12, I think, and Loretta met me at the airport, and I said, "We've got all these people waiting at court." They'd been there since 10 o'clock, and we got there, and we started the arraignment list at about two o'clock, or 2.15, something like that, and I just said, "I will sit for as long as is needed, to complete the list," and we did.
We finished at about seven o'clock that night, I think. The extraordinary thing was, there were only two no-shows. One was an accused who'd suffered a heart attack and went to the hospital. I thought that was a pretty good reason for a non-appearance. The other was just a no show. He'd been there, apparently, in the morning, and when he heard what was happening, I gathered later, he must have taken himself off to the pub or something like that. There was the inevitable application for a bench warrant at about half past five, when his matter was called on.
I knew I was sitting early the next morning to hear submissions, sentencing, and perhaps louder than I needed to, I asked my associate what time I was sitting in the morning, and she said nine o'clock, and I said, "Well, it has been an unusual day and I'll consider the application for a warrant in the morning at nine o'clock, if there's no appearance," working on the basis there were still a lot of people in court, it's not a big town, and word might get back to him. Anyway, sure enough he turned up at nine o'clock in the morning, there he was. So, there was no need for a warrant. Maybe it’s fair to say that we were both a bit late.
And, can I ask, did you hop back on a plane to head back to Adelaide?
Yes, I did, a couple of weeks later and the broken one was still there at the airport.
Just as a reminder, in case you'd forgotten.
They'd pushed it away from where it finished up, but it was there for some time, because it had to be inspected by the safety people, and everything.
Obviously someone was looking over you, that day.
Must have been.
Great to hear that story, and a good outcome. Thanks.