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Lionel Murphy: 1922-1986

Manning Clark

Lionel Murphy is one of the few judges of the High Court of Australia who has left his mark on the history of the country. He has argued with immense learning and great passion for trial by jury, the rights of the Aborigines, the liberties of the individual against the State, the Corporations and the Churches, and the rights of the Commonwealth against the States. Lionel Murphy is a child of the Enlightenment. He has devoted his public life to the abolition of ignorance, superstition and tyranny. He belongs to the great tradition of those who believe human beings had the capacity to abolish every form of domination, of class over class, parent over child, man over woman, woman over man, of race over race, and spiritual bully over sceptics and agnostics. All his life he has had an eye for the humbugs and the moralisers. Perhaps that is why the conservatives have never felt comfortable with him. He is one of those human beings who want all human beings to have not only life, liberty and the opportunity to pursue happiness: he wants all human beings to have life and have it more abundantly. Lionel Murphy's judgments are a testimony to his faith and his courage. The victims and the oppressed will read them as the words of a man who gave them hope.


Manning Clark (1915-1991) is one of Australia's most distinguished historians, and was the inaugural Vice President of the Evatt Foundation (1979-82). This text is reproduced from the foreword of Ely, Jean and Richard (eds), Lionel Murphy: The Rule of Law (Akron Press, Sydney: 1986). Image shows the Lionel Murphy Nebula in supernova remnant N86 in the Large Magellanic Cloud, named in 1984 by astronomers at the Australian National University's Mount Stromlo Observatory in acknowledgement of Lionel Murphy's passion for science. The Large Magellanic Cloud is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, nearly 200,000 light-years from earth, floating in space in a long and slow dance around our galaxy.


Suggested citation

Clark, Manning, 'Lionel Murphy: 1922-1986', Evatt Journal, Vol. 16, No. 4, September 2017.<>


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