Trustee, Sydney Opera House, 1977 - 1985
Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 30/07/1979 - 17/11/1981
President, Industrial Commission of New South Wales, 18/11/1981 - 30/03/1992
Chair, Legal Fees and Costs Board, 19/06/1984 - 1989
Chief Judge, Industrial Court of NSW, 31/03/1992 - 02/09/1996
President, Industrial Relations Commission of New South Wales, 31/03/1992 - 11/04/1998
Deputy President, Australian Industrial Relations Commission, 1991 - 1998
Member, Judicial Commission of New South Wales, 1986 - 1998
Chair, Civil Aviation Safety Authority, July 1995 - 1997
Commissioner, Inquiry into Voting Rights, City of Sydney, 1998
Acting Judge, District Court of New South Wales, 01/07/1998 - 11/04/2002
Chair, Parole Board of New South Wales, 28/07/1999 - 2002
Commissioner, Review of Professional Standards in the Australian Federal Police, 2003
William Kenneth Fisher was born on 12 April 1926 at Sydney, the son of William Charles Fisher and his wife Phyllis Enid. He was educated at Dubbo High School, Sydney Boys High School (1941-1943), and the University of Sydney (BA 1951, LLB 1953). Joining the Royal Australian Navy on 2 November 1944, he was promoted to midshipman on 20 August 1945 and to Sub-Lieutenant on 12 April 1946. He was demobilised on 22 July 1947. In 1947 he enrolled in an arts degree at the University of Sydney under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. Whilst undertaking his law degree he worked as an articled clerk with James McClelland and in addition temporarily as a boilermaker's assistant at the Garden Island Naval Dockyard. (1)
Fisher was admitted as a solicitor in New South Wales on 31 July 1953. He was called to the New South Wales Bar on 4 December 1953 and practised at 96 Phillip Street, Sydney, and by 1958 at Fourth Floor, Wentworth Chambers, 180 Phillip Street and by 1977 at 39 Martin Place. In 1971 Fisher was appointed a Queen's Counsel and had an Australia wide practice in industrial law. He was also involved with one Commonwealth and three State Royal Commissions. He was Senior Counsel assisting the Commonwealth Royal Commission on Petroleum. Its terms of reference were issued on 12 September 1973 and it issued six reports between 15 October 1974 and 1 November 1976. He represented individual unionists and the Labour Council of New South Wales at the New South Wales Royal Commission into allegations of organized crime in clubs, which ran from 20 August 1973 to 1 August 1974. He was Counsel for the Prisons Department at the Royal Commission into Prisons which began on 28 June 1976 and reported on 31 March 1978. He was Senior Counsel assisting the Woodward Royal Commission into Drug Trafficking, held from 5 August 1977 to 31 October 1979. (2)
Fisher was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales from 30 July 1979 to 17 November 1981. Later after his retirement from the Industrial Commission, he also held three commissions as an Acting Judge of the District Court of New South Wales, from 1 July 1998 to 11 April 2002. (3)
Fisher became President of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales from 18 November 1981. On 31 March 1992 the Industrial Commission was abolished and two new entities, the Industrial Relations Commission of New South Wales and the Industrial Court of New South Wales, were established. The Commission undertook the conciliation role and the Court the judicial role of the previous Commission. Fisher was President of the Commission and Chief Judge of the Court from 31 March 1992 to 2 September 1996 when the Commission and Court were amalgamated. Fisher retired as President of the Industrial Relations Commission of New South Wales on 11 April 1998. He served for sixteen and a half years, being the second longest serving president since it was established in 1902. He headed the Commission's inquiry into BHP's plans in September 1982 for mass retrenchments at its Wollongong and Newcastle steelworks. His report to the New South Wales government in May 1983 formed the basis of the Commonwealth government's steel industry recovery program of 1984. As a member of the Industrial Commission, Fisher was chair of the Legal Fees and Costs Board established on 19 June 1984 to set maximum fees payable to solicitors by type of business. After 1988 it also covered barristers' fees. Fisher served on this Board until 1989. He was also Deputy President of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission from 1991 to 1998. In addition he was a member of the Judicial Commission of New South Wales from 1986 to 1998. (4)
Fisher undertook other roles for the State and Federal Governments. He was Chair of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority from its beginnings in July 1995 to 1997. He was Commissioner in the Inquiry into Voting Rights, Council of the City of Sydney, 1998. The Inquiry's terms of reference were issued on 5 August 1998 and Fisher reported in October 1998. He was Chair of the Parole Board of New South Wales from 28 July 1999 to circa 2002. In 2003 he was Commissioner conducting the Review of Professional Standards in the Australian Federal Police. He recommended that the Complaints (Australian Federal Police) Act 1981 be repealed and that the Federal Police Disciplinary Tribunal be abolished. (5)
From 1998 to 2006, he was a partner in the firm of Fisher Cartwright and Berriman, lawyers and consultants, who specialise in employment and industrial law. (6)
Fisher has an interest in politics. During his period at University, he was President of Sydney University Labor Club from 1949-50. He unsuccessfully stood as a candidate for the Australian Parliament on two occasions: as an independent Labor candidate for the Federal seat of Warringah on 10 December 1949 and as an Australian Labor Party candidate for Prime Minister William McMahon's seat of Lowe on 2 December 1972. (7)
Fisher was a Trustee of the Sydney Opera House Trust from 1977 to 1985 and Chair of its Program Committee for four years. He was Chair of the Advisory Board of the Australian Board of the Australian Centre for Industrial Relations Research and Teaching at the University of Sydney in 1997. He was also Adjunct Professor at the Department of Industrial Relations at the University of Sydney from 1998. On 17 April 1998 the University of Sydney awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Science in Economics. (8)
Fisher was made an Officer of the Order of Australia on 26 January 1988 for services to industrial relations. (9)
From 1963, Fisher was principal of the Berrimbilla Stud Farm at Bathurst, breeding trotting horses, and later the Torryburn Murray Grey Stud, Torryburn Station, Uralla, breeding cattle. In 2008 he is principal of the Berrimbilla Murray Grey Stud at Uralla. (10)
Fisher and his wife Margaret have two sons and two daughters. (11)
1. Who's Who in Australia, Melbourne, The Herald and Weekly Times, 1974, p.371; 1977, p.383; 1980, p.312; 1983, p.304; 1985, p.304; 1990, p.435; 1994, p.546; 1997, p.580; 1999, p.606; 2002, p.669; 2006, pp.700-701; 2008, pp.748-49; 'Judges', Sydney Boys High School, http://www.sydneyboyshigh.com/documents/SHSJudges0705.pdf (cited 4 August 2008); University of Sydney Calendar, 1943-47 Exam Results, pp.334, 338; 1952 Supplement, pp.199, 215-216; 1953, p.905; 1953 Supplement, pp.204, 305; 1954 Supplement, pp.211-214, 363; 1955, p.1036, http://calendararchive.usyd.edu.au/index.php (cited 27 May, 19 and 22 June 2008); National Archives of Australia: A6769, Service Cards for Navy Officers; 'Fisher, William Kenneth', http://naa12.naa.gov.au/scripts/ItemDetail.asp?M=0&B=5415732 (cited 10 October 2008); John Shields, 'William Kenneth Fisher 1981-1998' in Greg Patmore (ed), Laying the Foundations of Industrial Justice: the presidents of the Industrial Commission of NSW 1902-1998, Sydney, Federation Press, 2003, p.231.
2. Barrister and Solicitors Admission Boards; NRS 13667, Roll of Solicitors, 29 August 1952 - 12 February 1962; Reel 2147, p.6; Barrister and Solicitors Admission Boards; NRS 13665, Roll of Barristers, 17 February 1927 - 10 June 1955; Reel 2147, p.38; New South Wales Law Almanac, Sydney, NSW Government Printer, 1954, p.77; 1955, p.78; 1958, p.81; 1972, p.99; 1977, p.76; Who's Who in Australia, op cit.; 'The Honourable Mr Justice William Kenneth Fisher, AO - Senate - The University of Sydney', Citation 1998, http://www.usyd.edu.au/senate/committees/advisoryWKFisher.shtml (cited 10 October 2008); John Shields, 'William Kenneth Fisher 1981-1998', op.cit, pp.234-235; D H Borchardt, Checklist of Royal Commissions Select Committees of Parliament and Boards of Inquiry, Commonwealth, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria, 1960-1980 and South Australia, 1970-1980, Bundoora, Borchardt Library, La Trobe University, 1986, pp.102, 203, 209, 221.
3. New South Wales Law Reports, Sydney, Law Book Company Ltd, 1979, Vol.1, p.viii; 1983, Vol.3, p.ix; Vol.44, 1997-1998, pp.x, xii; Vol.49, 1999-2000, p.x; Vol.50, 2000-2001, p.xi; Australian Law Journal, Vol.53, p.679 (September 1979); Vol.56, p.93 (February 1982).
4. ibid; Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; John Shields, 'ARPA: Balancing fairness and flexibility - The NSW Commission 1981-1998', http://www.australianreview.net/digest/2005/09/shields.html (cited 10 October 2008); Agency 474: Industrial Commission of New South Wales, 1926-1992; Agency 444: Industrial Court of New South Wales, 1992-1996; Agency 476: Industrial Relations Commission of New South Wales [I], 1992-1996; Agency 1099, Legal Fees and Costs Boards [I], 1984-1987; Agency 1100, Legal Fees and Costs Boards [II], 1988-1994, Archives Investigator, http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/default.aspx (cited 13 October 2008); John Shields, 'William Kenneth Fisher 1981-1998', op.cit, p.239.
5. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; W K Fisher, Inquiry into Sydney City Council Election Procedure: Report, October 1998, http://www.dlg.nsw.gov.au/Files/Information/Fisher%20Report.pdf (cited 13 October 2008); Parole Board of New South Wales, Report of the Parole Board, Sydney, the Board, 1999, p.4; 2001, p.4; 'Federal Police Disciplinary Tribunal Annual Report 2004-2005', Section 1 : the Tribunal, http://www.fpdt.gov.au/pdfsrtfs/fpdt_ar04.htm (cited 10 October 2008).
6. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; Fisher Cartwright Berriman Newsletter, Issue 24, March/April 2006, p.4, http://www.fishcart.com/newsletters/2006_MAR.APR.pdf (cited 13 October 2008).
7. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; John Shields, 'William Kenneth Fisher 1981-1998', op.cit., p.234.
8. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; 'The Honourable Mr Justice William Kenneth Fisher, AO - Senate - The University of Sydney', Citation 1998, op.cit.; University of Sydney Academic Board, Supplementary agenda for the meeting Wednesday 10 December 1997, pp.4-5, http://www.usyd.edu.au/ab/docs/1997/AB10_12_97sa.pdf (cited 13 October 2008).
9. It's an honour website http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au (cited 23 January 2008).
10. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.; John Shields, 'William Kenneth Fisher 1981-1998', op.cit., p.235.
11. Who's Who in Australia, op.cit.