Michael Kirby speaks on “Our first and only black Chief Justice meets racism in Australia”

Wed Aug 14 2019

The Federation Press in association with the Francis Forbes Society cordially invites you to a public address delivered by the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG and Professor Stefan Petrow of the University of Tasmania on the life of Sir Francis Villeneuve Smith, the third Chief Justice of Tasmania, and the issues of colonial and postcolonial racism in Australia.

Francis Villeneuve Smith was an immigrant who became the fourth Premier of Tasmania, the third Chief Justice of the Colony and the first Australian Chief Justice to have been Premier. He was born in 1819 to an English father and a Caribbean mother. He was trained as a barrister in London and eventually made his home in Hobart Town where he enjoyed quick success in politics and at the Bar. Living in Hobart he was repeatedly insulted for his skin colour and parentage by the locals. Yet his ability won for him high office, although his mother was largely isolated by the socially conservative race-conscious community. He was eventually knighted but left Tasmania to return to England where he died.

A biography of this remarkable barrister, politician, judge and Chief Justice, largely forgotten until now, has been written by Dr John Bennett together with Dr Ronald Solomon in the series Lives of the Australian Chief Justices published by The Federation Press (The Francis Forbes Society helped fund the research that lead to the book). To reflect on his life and times, Professor Stefan Petrow (Professor of History, University of Tasmania) will describe Smith's life, successes and hardships. The Hon Michael Kirby will pick up the story, describe colonial and postcolonial racism in Australia and derive some lessons for today.

The address will take place on Thursday, 15 August 2019 at 5.15 for 5.30pm-6.30pm at the following address:

  • Bar Common Room
  • New South Wales Bar Association
  • Selborne Chambers
  • B/174 Phillip St
  • Sydney NSW 2000

Please RSVP to by Thursday, 8 August.

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