Chief Justice of NSW, 15/2/1960 - 24/10/1962.
Leader Federal Parliamentary Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition, 1951 - 60.
Member of the House of Representatives for Barton, NSW, 1940 - 58 and for Hunter, NSW, 1958 - 60.
Deputy Prime Minister, 1946 - 49.
Justice of the High Court of Australia, 19/12/1930 - 40.
Herbert Vere Evatt was born on 30 April 1894 at East Maitland, New South Wales. He was educated at Fort Street Model (Boy’s High) School, Sydney and entered St Andrews’s College, University of Sydney. He was admitted to the Bar on 31 October 1918, after serving for two years as Associate to the Chief of Justice, Sir William Cullen. (1)
From 1920 to 1921 he assisted the Royal Commission into victimization of the 1917 transport strikers. In 1926 Evatt travelled to London to attend an international conference on labour migration, at which he strongly upheld the White Australia Policy. (2)
He was elected to the Legislative Assembly in May 1925 as a Labor member for Balmain from 30 May 1925 to 7 September 1927 and from 8 October 1927 to 18 September 1930. (3) In 1926 Evatt was appointed K.C. He left State politics in October 1930 to devote himself to the law, his practice was one of the largest in the State. On 19 December 1930 Evatt was appointed a justice of the High Court of Australia - the youngest judge elevated to the High Court. (4)
In the 1930s, Evatt also contributed significantly to Australian culture by being a patron of modern art, he supported the Contemporary Art Society and collected extensively. In 1937 to 1963 he was president of trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales. (5) Evatt also wrote several books recording Australian historical events: The King and His Dominion Governors (1936), Injustice Within the Law (1937), Rum Rebellion (1938), and a political study based on biography of W.A. Holman, Australian Labour Leader (1940). For these works he attained Doctor of Letters from Sydney University in 1944, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Australian Historical Society. (6)
In September 1940 he entered federal politics by securing Labor endorsement for the seat of Barton, and held that seat until 1958. In the Curtin government, Evatt was Attorney General and Minister for External Affairs. He retained both offices until 1949. From 1946 he was also Deputy Prime Minister in the Chifley Ministry. (7)
Towards the close of the Second World War, his portfolio in External Affairs took him overseas. As a member of the British War Cabinet he became a Privy Councillor and was Australia’s representative to the United Nation’s Organization and in 1948-49, President of the General Assembly.
When Chifley died in 1951, as Leader of the Opposition, Evatt took his place. He appeared as counsel before a Royal Commission on Espionage in 1954. On 15 February 1960 he was appointed Chief Justice of New South Wales, during this term he was chairman of the newly constituted Chief Justice’s Law Reform Committee. (8) Due to ill health, Evatt, resigned on 24 October 1965 and died on 2 November 1965. (9)
1) Lawlink NSW website: http://lawlink.nsw.gov.au
2) Australian Dictionary of Biography Ritchie John (ed) vol 14 1949-1980 Melbourne University Press 1996, p109.
3) Parliamentary Record: Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly 1824-1999 Vol VI p111.
4) Australian Dictionary of Biography ibid.
5) Ibid p110.
6) Lawlink NSW website, ibid.
7) Whos Who in Australia 1955 Alexander, Joseph A (ed) A Division of The Herald, Melbourne. P264.
8) Lawlink NSW website: ibid.
9) Australian Dictionary of Biography ibid. 114.