University of Melbourne Magazine

Lifelong friendships formed in Law School

Professor Douglas Williamson has many great memories of studying at the University in the 50s. Top of the list are the lifelong friendships made, with many remaining strong more than 60 years on.

Life on campus for Professor Williamson included involvement in University sporting teams including cricket and tennis, relaxing in ‘The Caf’ (Union House), engagement with the newly formed University Air Squadron and he became President of the Law Students’ Society in 1955. 

“Strange as it might seem, I actually enjoyed most of my lectures too!” Professor Williamson says.

“The event that changed my life however was in 1952 when I met Wendy Gardner, an Arts student at the time. She was later to become, and still is, my dear wife.”

Professor Williamson says he thoroughly enjoyed the Golden Alumni Celebration event held at Wilson Hall in October 2013.

“It was great seeing so many white-haired people willing to acknowledge and maintain their connection with the University after all these years,” he joked. 

“Of course I enjoyed catching up with old friends, and hearing from the guest speakers. Perhaps the most interesting was Dr John Guest who was talking about the foibles of people in high office at the University well before my student days.

“I was also delighted to hear Professor Adrienne Clarke talk so entertainingly and she was spot on with her memories and observations of people like Germaine Greer and Barry Humphries.”

Reminiscing of time on campus, Professor Williamson says what was his favourite place – a rather cosy Law Library housed in an upstairs annex to the then General Library on campus – no longer exists.

His memories of law lecturers is still strong with favourites including the Dean of the Faculty, Professor Zelman Cowen who he says was not only an outstanding as a lecturer, but simply an inspiring man.

“Another favourite was Professor David Derham, who later went on to establish the Law School at Monash University and then came back to be Vice-Chancellor at Melbourne.”

Professor Williamson says he was particularly pleased to be able to catch up with former colleagues at the Golden Alumni Celebration event including former Supreme Court Justices, Hon. John D. Phillips QC and Hon. Phillip Cummins QC.

The first in his family to have a tertiary education, Professor Williamson has certainly begun a tradition at the University, with son Owen studying Medicine, children Andrew and Emma (plus grandson Richard) studying Law.

Professor Williamson’s career highlights and accolades are as inspiring as they are long and span across four key areas – law, public offices, corporate and RAAF. 

He studied, practised and taught law over nearly 60 years. At the Bar he became a Queen’s Counsel and practised commercial law throughout  Australia. There was membership of several Commissions and numerous Committees.

In the Law School he was an Independent Lecturer in the early 1960s, a Bar Representative on the Faculty for many years, and in 1996 became Director of the Centre for Energy and Resources Law for the next decade. Interests in resources law and related matters included being National President of The Australian Mining and Petroleum Law Association, Chairman of the National Electricity Tribunal, and a Member of the National Native Title Tribunal. He also travelled the world extensively to represent several companies in the aluminium industry. 

 In the RAAF he served in National Service whilst still a student, and was selected for flying training in Tiger Moth and Wirraway aircraft. Subsequently he continued as a Citizen Air Force squadron pilot flying Vampire jet fighters until the mid 1950s. He was involved in senior roles in the RAAF Active Reserve, and the Specialist Reserve, for a total of 40 years, up to 1990. 

Douglas Williamson RFD QC (LLB(Hons) 1955)

Douglas Williamson RFD QC (LLB(Hons) 1955)