Frank Costigan

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Francis Xavier Costigan
Born(1931-01-14)14 January 1931
Melbourne, Australia
Died13 April 2009(2009-04-13) (aged 78)
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
Known forCostigan Royal Commission
RelativesMichael Costigan (brother)
Peter Costigan (brother)

Francis Xavier Costigan, QC, (14 January 1931 – 13 April 2009[1]) was an Australian lawyer, Royal Commissioner and social justice activist. Costigan is renowned for presiding over the Costigan Commission into organised crime.

Background and early life[edit]

Costigan grew up in Preston, a suburb of Melbourne and was educated by the Jesuits at St Patrick's College, East Melbourne, and at the University of Melbourne, where he obtained a law degree. He was admitted as a solicitor in Victoria in 1953 and became a barrister in 1957. He was appointed a Queen's Counsel in Victoria in 1973, and was admitted to practise throughout Australia and in Ireland.


Costigan was active in the campaign to reform the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. At the main Reform meeting held at the Festival Hall, in Dudley Street, Melbourne in January 1970 Costigan was a central and active voice demanding reform of the party. At the beginning of this large meeting, chaired by Tom Burns, Jim Cairns, Bob Hawke and George Crawford, Costigan seconded a resolution moved by Dally Messenger III that members of the Victorian Labor Party should have equal say with the Unions in the decision making processes of the party. The resolution was disallowed by the chairman. On the second morning of this meeting Frank Costigan and his supporters, Brian, Max and Norma Edgar, Dally Messenger, Gerry Cunningham, John Champion et alii,[2] distributed the significant 50-50 leaflet, which ultimately led to a compromise motion moved by Bob Hogg that 60% control stayed with the unions and that branch members, who hitherto had had no representation, were to enjoy 40%.[2]

Costigan, along with a group of lawyers including John Button, John Cain, Xavier Connor QC, Barry Jones, and Richard McGarvie, formed a reform group called "The Participants", which challenged the undemocratic state executive for control of the party and supported the political agenda of then opposition leader, and later prime minister, Gough Whitlam.[3]

In 1980, Costigan was appointed by the Australian Government to chair the Royal Commission on the activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union (commonly called the Costigan Commission or the Costigan Royal Commission). The commission moved from the investigation of union criminality to allegations of tax evasion and organised crime.[2]

Costigan was subsequently involved in Catholic campaigns for social justice. He was a director and deputy chair of Jesuit Social Services. In the 1998 Australian waterfront dispute he accused the Patrick Corporation of using the same "bottom of the harbour" corporate strategies as he had exposed in his Commission. Costigan later mainly practised in Alternative Dispute Resolution, either as an arbitrator or mediator. In 2005 he was appointed chairman of the Australian branch of Transparency International, an anti-corruption coalition.

Personal life[edit]

Costigan was the twin brother of Michael Costigan, a writer and editor; and an older brother of Peter Costigan, Lord Mayor of Melbourne from 1999 to 2001.[2]

Messenger describes him as truly decent person who persevered in the "cesspool of politics" because that is where the most good can be done for the most people.[2]

Costigan is survived by five children and ten grandchildren.


  1. ^ "High-profile QC Frank Costigan dies". ABC News. Australia. 13 April 2009. Retrieved 13 April 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e Messenger, Dally (21 July 2015). "Frank Costigan QC: National Conference: ALP Reform". Dally Messenger III. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  3. ^ Jones, Barry (2006). A Thinking Reed. Allen and Unwin. p. 166.

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