Supreme Court History Program
The Supreme Court History Program (SCHP) is an initiative of the SCQL.
Its primary objective is to preserve Queensland's legal heritage and ensure its accessibility to the wider Australian community by facilitating the acquisition, preservation and dissemination of relevant primary material. The SCHP also seeks to foster research in the area of legal history through an ongoing program of exhibitions and scholarly publication.
Since its inception, the SCHP has developed a wide range of activities, including:
- the acquisition, preservation and display of legal memorabilia
- a state-wide oral history project
- the commercial publication of scholarly works in the field of legal history
- creation of exhibitions on topics of legal history
- seminars and occasional lectures.
About the Program
The SCHP was officially established in 2000, although its antecedents stretch back several decades. The SCQL began to collect biographical information on judges of the Supreme and District Courts as early as 1983. Over time, this has developed into an extensive collection of material on past and present judges, including their unpublished papers and speeches. Selected information can be accessed online via our Queensland Judiciary database.
The SCQL’s special collections, which are the foundation of its research work, now contain more than 21,000 items. These include collations of published material, original documents, sound recordings and rare books. The SCQL preserves for future generations collections of special historical significance, most notably the personal papers of retired Judge R.F. Carter, papers relating to the late John Laskey Woolcock and the Douglas diaries. The SCQL also houses an archive of photographs, as well as robes, wigs and other legal memorabilia.
The Supreme Court Oral History Project seeks out interviews with prominent members of the judiciary and the legal profession, in order to honour the contribution of outstanding individuals and to expand the range of sources available to future historians. Previous subjects of oral histories have included the Right Honourable Sir Harry Gibbs GCMG, AC, KBE and Sir Walter Campbell AC, QC.
The SCQL curates exhibitions designed to engage public interest in the law and its history. In the past, these exhibitions have dealt with subjects as diverse as Shakespeare and the law, the role of women in the Queensland legal profession, human rights in the twenty-first century and the historical development of the Queensland criminal code.
Many distinguished scholars have contributed to the SCHP. The Library holds the autograph manuscript of the Honourable Mr Justice Bruce McPherson CBE’s history of the Supreme Court of Queensland, as well as manuscripts of Mr Justice Stanley’s autobiography and Mrs Joan Priest’s biography of Sir Harry Gibbs. In many cases, the authors have also deposited their research notes for the benefit of future scholars.
The SCHP was convened by Dr Michael White QC (Adjunct Professor at the TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland) between 2000-2011, then since 2011 by John McKenna SC, with the assistance of the Supreme Court Librarian, Mr Aladin Rahemtula. It is overseen by a Sub-committee of the Supreme Court Library Committee. Anyone interested in contributing to the Program or any of its activities, should contact the Librarian for further information.