Acting Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 03/06/1968 - 18/08/1968
Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 19/08/1968 - 02/04/1986
Probate Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 1972 - 1976
Judge in the Protective Division, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 1974 - 1983
Chief Judge in Equity, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 22/12/1976 - 02/04/1986
Additional Judge of Appeal, 22/12/1976 - 02/04/1986
Judge Advocate, Royal Australian Air Force, 1964 - 1968
Judge Advocate - General, Royal Australian Air Force, 1969 - 1988
Chair, Commission of Inquiry into the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests, 1987- 1988
Member, Queensland Parliamentary Judges Commission of Inquiry, 1989
Assistant Commissioner, Independent Commission of Corruption, 04/04/1990 - 31/10/1990
Grievance Mediator for the Senior Executive Service, NSW Government, 09/01/1990 - 1998
President Fiji Court of Appeal, January 1992 - 26/11/1993
Michael Manifold Helsham was born on 30 November 1921 at Sydney, the son of Charles Howard Helsham and his wife Mary Farquhar nee Gibson. Educated at Neutral Bay High School, he won a scholarship for two years to the Sydney Church of England Grammar School. He was awarded a Public Exhibition Scholarship to the University of Sydney based on his results in the Leaving Certificate examination of November 1939. He completed his first year in a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1940 but enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 25 May 1941. (1)
During World War II, Helsham served as a bomber pilot with No.2 Squadron in the Pacific. When discharged on 1 February 1946, he was a Flight Lieutenant at No.2 Medical Rehabilitation Unit. On 16 June 1944 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bringing his damaged Hudson Bomber aircraft and air crew back safely to base following a night bombing raid on Langgoer in the Kai Group of islands off Irian Jaya on 11 October 1943. (2)
Returning to his studies at the University of Sydney, Helsham graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948 and a Bachelor of Laws with 1st Class Honours in 1951. In December 1950 he won the Law School Comforts Fund Prize for the most distinguished ex-servicemen student. From 1946 to 1950, whilst studying at University, he was Clerk to Justice Reginald Schofield Bonney, the Judge in Divorce and Matrimonial Causes at the Supreme Court of New South Wales. (3)
Helsham was called to the New South Wales Bar as a barrister on 9 February 1951. His chambers were at 167 Phillip Street, Sydney, at 142 Phillip Street from 1954, and from 1956 at 180 Phillip Street. He was a Council Member of the New South Wales Bar Association from 1953/54 to 1956/57, 1960/61 to 1961/62 and in 1965/66. He was a member of the Council of Law Reporting. Made a Queen's Counsel in 1966, he practised in all jurisdictions. On 29 April 1964 Helsham, along with Ronald Clive Pettitt, was appointed to inspect the business affairs in New South Wales of the Australian Factors Limited which had gone into receivership on 13 March 1964. With their investigative powers later extended to Victoria and Queensland, they reported to the New South Wales Attorney General on 19 April 1968. (4)
Helsham was appointed an Acting Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 3 June 1968 to help reduce the backlog of cases in the Equity jurisdiction. On 19 August 1968 the number of Equity judges was increased to four and he was made permanent. From 1972 to 1976 he was the Probate Judge and from 1974 to 1983 he was the Judge in the Protective Division. On 22 December 1976 he was appointed the Chief Judge in Equity, and therefore also an Additional Judge of Appeal. He retired on 2 April 1986. (5)
Helsham was a member of the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve from 1964, holding the positions of Judge Advocate from 1964 to 1968 and Judge Advocate General from 1969 to 1983. He held the rank of Air Vice-Marshal. Made an Officer of the Order of Australia in the Military List on 26 January 1981 for his services as Judge Advocate General, he was also awarded the Reserve Forces Decoration. (6)
Helsham conducted a number of inquiries after he retired as a judge. In 1987 and 1988 he was chair of the Commonwealth Commission of Inquiry into the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests. This inquiry followed protests against logging at Farmhouse Creek and in the Lemonthyme Forest in Tasmania. Helsham's report that only five of these areas were of World Heritage value did not settle the protests. In 1989 he was one of three members of the Queensland Parliamentary Judges Commission of Inquiry into whether two Queensland Judges were fit to hold office. From 4 April to 31 October 1990 he was an Assistant Commissioner of the Independent Commission of Corruption, specifically to investigate the tendering process of the Walsh Bay Redevelopment Project and whether confidential information was disclosed to the tenderers or afterwards to the Leader of the New South Wales Opposition or his staff. On 9 January 1990 he was appointed the Grievance Mediator for the Senior Executive Service for the NSW Government, a position he held till 1998. (7)
In January 1992 he was appointed President of the Fiji Court of Appeal. The Court sat four times a year in Suva for a month at a time and the last case he heard was on 26 November 1993. (8)
Helsham was active in the community. He was Chair of the Australian Vietnam War Veterans Trust in 1992. A volunteer with community radio station 2MBSFM from 1987 to 2002, he was a radio announcer. He was also a volunteer with Technical Aid to the Disabled from 1986 to 2002. (9)
Helsham was a diverse author. His publications included 'Company Meetings in Australia' with PB Toose (Sydney, 1953), poetry in 'Platonic Verses by Somewhat Rusty' (1988), a travel guide called 'Why Turkey' (1994) and 'Tilbury Tales: three stories for children aged 6 to 60' (1996). (10)
Helsham died on 13 November 2002 at Sydney, survived by his wife Judith Jane nee Vance, whom he married on 2 July 1949, two sons and a daughter. (11)
1. Who's Who in Australia, Melbourne, The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, 1971, p.459; 1974, p.494; 1977, p.511; 1980, p.405; 1983, p.403; 1985, p.403; 1991, p.569; 1994, p.714; 1997, p.760; 2000, p.845; 2002, p.889; Peter White, 'War hero, judge, folkie and greenie: Michael Manifold Helsham ...', Sydney Morning Herald 14 December 2002, p.72; University of Sydney Calendar, 1940, p.312; 1941, pp.264, 554, 558, 560-561, http://calendararchive.usyd.edu.au/index.php (cited 27 May 2008); 'Helsham, Michael Manifold', Department of Veterans Affairs World War 2 Nominal Roll http://www.ww2roll.gov.au/script/veteran.asp?ServiceID=R&VeteranID=1205529 (cited 15 October 2008).
2. Peter White, op.cit.; 'Helsham, Michael Manifold', Department of Veterans Affairs World War 2 Nominal Roll, op.cit.; 'Honours and Awards Index to Recommendations.... Recommendation for Michael Helsham', http://www.awm.gov.au/honours/awm192/person.asp?p=003040348 (cited 15 October 2008).
3. University of Sydney Calendar, op.cit., 1943-1947 Exam Results pp.237, 239, 241; 1952 Supplement, pp.151, 219, 220, 326; 1953, p.907 cited 27 May, 19 and 22 June 2008; New South Wales Law Almanac, Sydney, NSW Government Printer, 1947, p.42; 1948, p.42; 1949, p.42, 1950, p.42.
4. Barrister and Solicitors Admission Boards; NRS 13665, Roll of Barristers, 17 February 1927 - 10 June 1955; Reel 2147, p.32; New South Wales Law Almanac, op.cit., 1952, p.68; 1954, p.65; 1955, pp.67, 78; 1956, p.68; 1957, pp.68, 81; 1961, p.71; 1962, p.75; 1966, p.80; 1967, p.96; 1968, p.96; Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; Australian Law Journal, Vol.42, p.236 (31 October 1968); Report of the investigation into the affairs of Australian Factors Limited ...', NSW Parliament, Joint Volume of Papers presented to the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly and ordered to be printed, 1973, Vol.III, pp.653, 667, 915.
5. State Reports New South Wales, Sydney, Law Book Company Ltd, Vol.68, 1966-1967, p.vi; Vol.69, 1967-1968, pp.vii-viii; New South Wales Law Reports, Sydney, Law Book Company Ltd, 1971, Vol.1, p.viii; 1972, Vol.2, p.vii; 1973, Vol.2, p.vii; 1974, Vol.2, p.vii; 1976, Vol.1, p.viii; 1982, Vol.1, p.vii; Vol.5, 1985-1986, p.ix; Australian Law Journal, Vol.42, p.236 (31 October 1968); Vol.60, p.313 (May 1986); New South Wales Law Almanac for 1995, Sydney, Supreme Court of NSW, 1995, p.xli.
6. 'National Archives of Australia - Person notes for person CP559', http://naa12.naa.gov.au/scripts/Person Detail.asp?M=3&B=CP+559 (cited 15 October 2008); Who's Who in Australia, op.cit; It's an honour website http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au (cited 23 January 2008).
7. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; Peter White, op.cit.; 'UNEP - WCMC Protected Areas Programme - Tasmanian Wilderness', http://www.unep-wcmc.org/sites/wh/taswild.html (cited 16 October 2008); Independent Commission Against Corruption, Annual Report, 1989/1990, pp.6, 10, 61; 1990/1991, pp.2, 33-34, 115; 'M1990-02 Senior Executive Service - Grievance Mediation Mechanism', NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, http://www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/publications/memos_and_circulars/ministerial_memoranda/1990/m1990-02 (cited 24 January 2008).
8. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit; Australian Law Journal, Vol.67, p.480 (June 1993); 'Court of Appeal of Fiji, Nand v Indra ....', http://www.paclii.org/fj/cases/FJCA/1993/41.html (cited 16 October 2008).
9. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.
10. Libraries Australia, http://librariesaustralia.nla.gov.au/apps/kss (cited 16 October 2008).
11. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; Peter White, op.cit.; Funeral notice, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 December 2002.