David Mitchell (lawyer)

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David Charles Mitchell (b.1934) [1] [2] is a retired minister of the Presbyterian Church of Australia and a specialist in constitutional law.

Mitchell was born on March 13, 1934 at the St. Stephen's Private Hospital in South Hobart, Tasmania and grew up in the nearby suburb of Sandy Bay, Tasmania [3] and was educated at the University of Tasmania [1] and admitted to the bar on 4 February 1958. In due course he was also admitted to the bar in Victoria, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, West Australia, England and Lesotho.[4]

Mitchell worked for the British Colonial Service in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, now known as Botswana,[1] as an Assistant District Officer on probation in the Serowe District in the year following his appointment on March 24, 1960.[5][6] He subsequently joined the Commonwealth Public Service, where he was responsible for legal matters in Papua New Guinea for the then Department of External Territories. He transferred to the Attorney-General's Department, where he helped establish the Australian Legal Aid Office in 1974 before being seconded to Lesotho.[1]

Mitchell was Solicitor-General for Lesotho in October 1976, when Lesotho was in dispute with its neighbour South Africa over the closure of three border crossings into the Transkei, that was designed to pressure Lesotho into recognizing this "homeland" established by South Africa for its Bantu peoples. He successfully presented the case for the government of Lesotho to the Security Council of the United Nations which resulted in an aid package of $US113 million.[1]

Mitchell became a home missionary, pastoring the Presbyterian parish of Queanbeyan in New South Wales in 1979 and 1980 from the Lutheran Church of that town, [7] [8] [9] and the new Presbyterian parish of Tuggeranong in the Australian Capital Territory from 1981.[10] [11] The congregation of the latter parish initially met at the Erindale Centre from September 13, [12] and moved to the Monash Primary School from January 24, where he provided a Sunday School and Boys Brigade. [13] He was subsequently ordained, and, after a time, became Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Tasmania in 1994. In that role, he presented the cases about, and voted against, the ordination of women within the Presbyterian Church of Australia. He believed that it was "a very complicated and divisive issue", and thought that his "motivation for so voting was very different from the motivation of most others". He believed that "it is a situation where men are forced to take a proper and full responsibility", having "a special accountability at the seat of judgment", and they "will be held more strictly to account". This was not a "retreat from reality", and gave women a "far superior position" where they could exercise a "softer, more compassionate touch". [14] Subsequently he pastored the Presbyterian Community Church at Rokeby, Tasmania from 2000 to 2003. [15][16][17][18][19] He also acted as procurator for the Tasmanian Assembly of the Church, resigning in August 2000 after serving in that post for well over a decade.[20] Subsequently he acted temporarily in the same capacity for the South Australian Assembly of the Church in 2002,[21] and was the convener of the Tasmanian Theological Education Committee in 2003.[22]

Mitchell continued his association with Canberra, returning many times.

  • In 1994, he gave a public lecture on the "constitution and Australia's future" on January 27 at the Albert Hall, where he advocated for the Australian monarchy for "legal, pragmatic and religious reasons", and also spoke at the summer school organized by Youth With A Mission. [14]
  • He was at regular speaker until 2009 at the annual Daniel 2:44 Conference in Canberra.

Mitchell was elected a delegate from Tasmania to the 1998 Australian Constitutional Convention as a member of the Australian Monarchist League,.[23] He "felt that he had been enormously privileged to have been a delegate at the convention, where overall there had been a good spirit of cooperation ... [but was] concerned that the push for a republic represents a tearing away from the Scriptural basis of our system of government, going back as far as Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights, which were under-girded by Scripture." He subsequently self-published a paperback booklet, Republic? The Hidden Agenda,[24] and contributed to the booklet, Democracy Down Under - Understanding Our Constitution, published by the Church and Nation Committee of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria.[25]

Mitchell ran as one of two Australian Senate candidates in Tasmania for the Christian Democratic Party in the 2004 federal election. He received 2,270 primary votes and was eliminated after the 95th recount.[26]

Subsequently Mitchell has campaigned against recognizing local government in the Australian Constitution, [27] which he regarded as a "direct attack" against the States which would enable the Federal Government to "undermine or contradict state government policy". [28] He has also campaigned against an Australian Republic, [29] [30] and gay law reform. [31]


  1. ^ a b c d e UN supports Aid Plan for Lesotho, Sydney Morning Herald, 27 May 1977, p3k&l.
  2. ^ Your Nation in Their Hands - The Elected Delegates - 1998 Constitutional Convention - The Complete Guide by Claire Harvey, Australian 31 January 1998 p.7ff.
  3. ^ Births - Mitchell, Hobart Mercury, 14 March 1934, p1a.
  4. ^ The Tasmanian Bar - Barristers - David Mitchell. Retrieved 24 Nov 2011.
  5. ^ Bechuanaland Colonial Administration c.1884-c.1965 by Place, Date, Name, and Title by Neil Parsons & Glorious Gumbo, History Department, University of Botswana, Gaborone (Botswana) 2002. Retrieved 27 Aug 2013.
  6. ^ A district officer was a judicial appointee responsible to the resident commissioner or resident magistrate, who was, at that time and in that district, David M. Robinson (d.1964).
  7. ^ Church Services – Presbyterian, Canberra Times, 27 January 1979 p.21f.
  8. ^ Church Services – Presbyterian, Canberra Times, 2 June 1979 p.22f.
  9. ^ Return Thanks – Dodds, Canberra Times, 7 January 1980 p.12d.
  10. ^ Eulogy of Rev Peter Clements, Weekly Lively Hope Newsletter, vol. 23(45), Adelaide, 3 May 2009.
  11. ^ Tuggeranong Presbyterian Church - History Retrieved 21 September 2015
  12. ^ New Tuggeranong church, Canberra Times 9 September 1981, p.26b-c.
  13. ^ Second Presbyterian parish for Canberra by Graham Downe, Canberra Times, 20 January 1982, p.18c.
  14. ^ a b Yes to the Queen, no to women – Constitution based on the faith: Presbyterian leader by Graham Downe, Canberra Times, 27 January 1994 p.14d-f.
  15. ^ Church Directory - Tasmania, The Australian Presbyterian, No. 522, Page 15c, December 2000. Retrieved 27 Aug 2013.
  16. ^ Church Directory - Tasmania, The Australian Presbyterian, No. 524, Page 15c, March 2001. Retrieved 27 Aug 2013.
  17. ^ Church Directory - Tasmania, The Australian Presbyterian, No. 527, Page 15c, June 2001. Retrieved 27 Aug 2013.
  18. ^ Church Directory - Tasmania, The Australian Presbyterian, No. 546, Page 17c, March 2003. Retrieved 27 Aug 2013.
  19. ^ Church Directory - Tasmania, The Australian Presbyterian, No. 555, Page 17c, December 2003. Retrieved 27 Aug 2013.
  20. ^ Tasmanian Assembly, The Australian Presbyterian, No. 518, Page 15b&c, August 2000. Retrieved 27 Aug 2013.
  21. ^ Prayer, The Australian Presbyterian, No. 542, Page 26b, October 2002. Retrieved 27 Aug 2013.
  22. ^ Prayer, The Australian Presbyterian, No. 546, Page 30b, March 2003. Retrieved 27 Aug 2013.
  23. ^ Australian Constitutional Convention (2-13 February 1998) - Delegate List. Retrieved 24 Aug 2013.
  24. ^ Presbyterians at the Constitutional Convention, The Australian Presbyterian, No. 491, Page 17a, March 1998. Retrieved 27 Aug 2013.
    The National Library of Australia have two copies of Republic? The Hidden Agenda by David Mitchell, David Mitchell Hobart (Tas) 1998, and have it catalogued under NL 342.9403 M681.
  25. ^ Democracy Down Under - Understanding Our Constitution - A Review by Bruce Christian, The Australian Presbyterian, No. 497, Page 25b&c, September 1998. Retrieved 27 Aug 2013.
    The Australian National Library do not have a copy of Democracy Down Under - Understanding Our Constitution.
  26. ^ "Final Tasmania Senate Results", Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  27. ^ Why Local Government Should Not Be Recognised in the Constitution by David Mitchell, Quadrant Online, vol.56(4), April 2012. Retrieved 24 Aug 2013.
  28. ^ The timing of the referendum is rushed and the states are divided by Mohn Ferguson, The Australian 18 May 2003 p.14.
  29. ^ Republic? More Power For Politicians by David Mitchell, Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy, Hobart (Tas) 1998. Retrieved 24 Aug 2013.
  30. ^ “Statewide Mornings” by Tim Cox, ABC 936 Hobart 21 April 2008.
  31. ^ Nile visits to oppose gay reform by Ellen Whinnett, Hobart Mercury 17 April 2004 p.13. Retrieved 24 October 2016.