Acting Judge, Supreme Court of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, 01/07/1961 - 31/12/1961.
Puisne Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 29/06/1962 - 13/03/1976.
Judge in Divorce, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 10/04/1964 - 19/04/1973
Chief Judge, Family Law Division, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 20/04/1973 - 13/03/1976
Additional Judge of Appeal, Court of Appeal New South Wales, 20/04/1973 - 13/03/1976
Member, Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal New South Wales, 01/0/1977 - 31/12/1980
Challis Lecturer in Divorce and Domestic Relations, University of Sydney, 1954 - 1962
Deputy Chancellor University of Sydney, 1971 - 1986
David Mayer Selby was born on 13 March 1906 at Melbourne, Victoria, the son of Herbert Basil Selby and his wife Aimee Henriette nee de Beer. The family moved to Sydney when David was a child. He was educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School and at the University of Sydney (BA 1927, LLB 1931, Hon D 1991). He was Business Secretary of the Sydney University Arts Society in 1926. (1)
Selby was admitted to the New South Wales Bar on 30 September 1931. He practiced in many jurisdictions, particularly in divorce. He was a member of the Council of the New South Wales Bar from 1948/49 to 1957/58. He was made a Queen's Counsel in 1960. (2)
Whilst an undergraduate, Selby joined the University of Sydney Scouts Infantry, which was the university's AMF regiment, and later transferred to the 1st Medium Artillery Battery. In August 1941 he was sent to command 'L' Anti-Aircraft Battery at Rabaul, New Britain. On 4 January 1942 it was the first militia unit to fire on the Japanese and the first Australian troops to fire at the enemy on Australian territory. After the fall of Rabaul on 23 January 1942, Selby survived with his men and two other officers in the jungle for three months until they reached the safety of a plantation at Drina. Six weeks later they arrived in Port Moresby by ship and eventually reached Townsville. He enlisted in the AIF on 3 November 1942. From 1943 to 1945 he was a legal officer with the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) reaching the acting rank of Major. At the time of his discharge on 6 December 1945 he was described as a Captain at the Anti Aircraft Battery at Rabaul. After the war he served as Chief Legal Officer, Eastern Command, retiring from the Civilian Military Forces with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He was awarded the Efficiency Decoration. (3)
Selby had a long connection with the University of Sydney. He was Challis Lecturer in Divorce and Domestic Relations at the Faculty of Law from 1954 to 1962. He was a Fellow of the Senate of the University of Sydney from November 1964 to 1989. He was Deputy Chancellor from 1971 to 1986. He was a Member of the Council of the Sydney University International House from 1988 and an Honorary Fellow of International House in 1989. He was past president of the University Arts Association by 1962. He was president of the Sydney University Law Graduates Association from 1971 to 1972. The University made him an Honorary Doctor of the University on 4 May 1991. (4)
In July 1961 Selby was appointed an Acting Justice of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea for a period of six months. He was made a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 29 June 1962. On 10 April 1964 he was appointed Judge in Divorce and on 20 April 1973 Chief Judge of the Family Law Division. Also on 20 April 1973 he was made an Additional Judge of Appeal. He retired on 13 March 1976. Following his retirement from the Supreme Court, Selby was a member of the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal NSW from 1977 to 1980. (5)
Selby sought reform and simplification of the Commonwealth's Matrimonial Causes Act, 1959, which outlined fourteen causes for divorce. He wanted the legislation to include equal rights for both parents, protection of the rights of the children, and legal aid for some cases. His work in the area of family law led to the Commonwealth's Family Law Act, 1975 which introduced a single ground for divorce, that is irretrievable breakdown of marriage. (6)
Selby was active in the community. He was chairman of the Handcrafts Committee of the Australian Red Cross from 1971 to 1990. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the Australian Red Cross in 1981 and made an Honorary Life Member in 1990. He was Life Vice-president of the Marriage Guidance Council of NSW by 1962. He was president of the Medico-Legal Association of NSW from 1976 to 1978. He was also a member of the Medical Ethics Review Committee from 1981 to 1990. On 26 January 1988 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to learning, to legal education and to the community. (7)
Selby published two partial autobiographies. 'Hell and High Water' (1956) detailed his experiences during the war on New Britain. 'Itambu' (1963) described his experiences as a judge in Papua-New Guinea in the 1960s. He was also the author of 'Supplement to Mackenzie's Practice in Divorce, fifth edition: with amendments to date, notes and forms and including the text of the Commonwealth Matrimonial Causes Act 1945 and rules (N.S.W.) thereunder and the legislation of the States and Territories relating to grounds for divorce' (Sydney, 1946) and he contributed a chapter entitled 'The anaesthetist and Australian Law' to Geoffrey Kaye's 'Anaesthetic Methods' (Melb., 1946). (8)
David Mayer Selby died at Bowral, NSW, on 16 September 2002, survived by his wife Barbara nee Phillips whom he married on 29 March 1939, and one son and two daughters. (9)
1. Who's Who in Australia, Melbourne, The Herald, 1962, p.765; 1965, p.763; 1968, p.762; 1971, pp.823-4; 1974, p.902; 1977, p.952; 1980, p.748; 1983, p.769; 1985, pp.764-5; 1990, p.1060; 1994, p.1339; 1997, p.1428; 2002, pp.1674-5; Jen Rosenberg, 'A Judge you'd follow into the jungle', Sydney Morning Herald, 3 October 2002, http://www.smh.com.au/cgi-bin/common/popupPrintArticle.pl?paths/articles/2002/10/02/1033538674745.html cited 27 June 2008; 'The Hon David Mayer Selby, Deputy Chancellors - Senate - The University of Sydney' http://www.usyd.edu.au/senate/DC_Selby.html cited 24 January 2008; University of Sydney Calendar, 1925, p.722; 1926, pp.721, 725, 886; 1927, p.644, 733; 1928, p.757, 849; 1930, pp.578, 797; 1931, pp.528-9; 1932, pp.526, 647, 816, http://calendararchive.usyd.edu.au/index.php cited 12 and 27 May 2008.
2. Barrister and Solicitors Admission Boards; NRS 13665, Roll of Barristers, 17 February 1927 - 10 June 1955; Reel 2147, p.5; Australian Law Journal, Vol.35, p.257 (26 October 1961); New South Wales Law Almanac, Sydney, NSW Government Printer, 1949, p.55; 1950, p.55; 1951, p.57; 1952, p.57; 1953, p.61; 1954, p.65; 1955, p.67; 1956, p.68; 1957, p.68; 1958, p.68; Who's Who in Australia, op.cit..
3. 'The Hon David Mayer Selby, Deputy Chancellors - Senate - The University of Sydney', op.cit.; Jen Rosenberg, 'A Judge you'd follow into the jungle', op.cit; 'Selby, David Mayer', Department of Veterans Affairs World War 2 Nominal Roll http://www.ww2roll.gov.au/script/veteran.asp?ServiceID=A&VeteranID=249448 cited 30 June 2008; Lionel Wigmore, The Japanese Thrust, Australia in the War of 1939-1945: Series 1, Army, Volume 5, Canberra, AWM, 1957, pp. 394, 401-3, 653, 671-2 http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/chapter.asp?volume=20 cited 30 June 2008; Australian Law Journal, Vo.35, p.257 (26 October 1961); Who's Who in Australia, op.cit..
4. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; 'The Hon David Mayer Selby and Mrs Barbara Selby - Senate - The University of Sydney', http://www.usyd.edu.au/senate/committees/advisorySelbys.shtml cited 27 June 2008.
5. New South Wales Law Almanac for 1980, Sydney, NSW Govt Printer, 1980, pp. 56, 63; Australian Law Journal, Vol.35, p.257 (26 October 1961); Vol.36, p.82 (27 July 1962); State Reports New South Wales, Sydney, Law Book Company of Australasia, Vol. 62, p.v (1962), Vol.64, p.v (1964-64).
6. 'The Hon David Mayer Selby, Deputy Chancellors - Senate - The University of Sydney', op.cit. citing The Australian 8 October 2002.
7. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; It's an honour website http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au cited 23 January 2008.
8. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; Libraries Australia, http://librariesaustralia.nla.gov.au cited 1 July 2008.
9. Sydney Morning Herald, death notice, 17 September 2002; Who's Who in Australia, op.cit..