By Justice Reform Initiative, 3 August 2021
We are saddened to hear of the death of our patron Emeritus Professor Hal Wootten AC QC, who passed away last week.
Professor Wootten was a leading figure in Australian legal circles for decades, serving as founding Dean of the University of NSW’s Faculty of Law & Justice in 1971 before moving to the Supreme Court of New South Wales, where he sat on the bench for a decade.
As one of the Commissioners leading the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody from 1987 to 1991, he made a significant contribution in calling out the egregious wrongs committed on the First Nations peoples of this country.
In addition to his judicial work, he helped to establish and run the first Aboriginal Legal Service, and also served as a Deputy President of the Native Title Tribunal between 1994-97.
He continued to work throughout his life in a diverse range of roles, showing tireless dedication to the cause of justice.
The Justice Reform Initiative’s executive director Dr Mindy Sotiri said Professor Wootten, who would have turned 99 in December, had been an energetic and passionate advocate for the much-needed reform of Australia’s criminal justice system.
“We deeply appreciate Professor Wootten’s support and the remarkable intellect and vigour he brought to our work,” she said. “On behalf of all our patrons, and the many Australians who share his desire to build a different kind of justice system, we send our condolences to Professor Wootten’s family and many friends.”