Herbert Vere (“Doc”) Evatt (1894-1965), was a brilliant Australian lawyer, politician and writer, whose controversial stances, and erratic behaviour, often invited strong criticism or support. Evatt’s career included representing Australia in the British war cabinet (1942-1943), being one of the architects of the United Nations and later, President of the UN General Assembly. He served as a member of the NSW parliament, a KC, High Court justice (1930-1940), federal Labor parliamentarian (1941-1960), and Chief Justice of New South Wales (1960-1962). Author and journalist, Gideon Haigh’s latest book, The Brilliant Boy: Doc Evatt and the great Australian dissent, covers Evatt and his dissenting judgment in the NSW case of Chester v Waverley Municipal Council (1939) – where Mrs Chester, sued Waverley Council for shock caused by the death of her seven-year-old son, Max, who drowned in a trench which had been left exposed by Council workers. The other justices in the case found for the defendant, with their views including that the Council did not owe a duty of care to Mrs Chester. Writing in The Weekend Australian (July 17-18, 2021), human rights barrister, academic and author/broadcaster, Geoffrey Robertson QC, noted that Evatt’s intellectual power and compassion in his “ground breaking judgment”, opened the door to compensation for all foreseeable victims of corporate carelessness, and laid the groundwork for changes to the common law that addressed the challenges of a changing world, and considered the needs of the poor and vulnerable. The Brilliant Boy includes a focus on Evatt’s ability to see a plaintiff’s perspective through his own experiences of love, loss and suffering. Gideon Haigh is due to discuss his book at ANU’s Kambri’s Cultural Centre, 6.30pm, 23 August 2021.
Geri Bryant-Badham is a Canberra-based freelance researcher and journalist.
Geri has substantial experience in advocacy, policy and organising and managing projects, including handling budgets and finances. She has worked in various offices for a small business, a university and in the parliamentary, political, government and non-government sectors.