Gerard Brennan

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Sir Gerard Brennan

10th Chief Justice of Australia
In office
21 April 1995 – 21 May 1998
Nominated byPaul Keating
Appointed byBill Hayden
Preceded byAnthony Mason
Succeeded byMurray Gleeson
Justice of the High Court of Australia
In office
12 February 1981 – 21 April 1995
Appointed byMalcolm Fraser
Preceded byHarry Gibbs
Succeeded byWilliam Gummow
Personal details
Francis Gerard Brennan

(1928-05-22) 22 May 1928 (age 93)
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia
Spouse(s)Patricia O'Hara
(m. 1953–3 Sept 2019 (her death))

Sir Francis Gerard Brennan AC KBE GBS QC (born 22 May 1928) is a retired Australian lawyer and jurist who served as the 10th Chief Justice of Australia (appointed by Prime Minister Paul Keating in 1995).[1] Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser appointed Brennan to the court in 1981.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Brennan was born in Rockhampton, Queensland. He is the son of Frank Tenison Brennan, a Labor Party politician, lawyer and judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland.[3][2] He was raised as, and continues to be, a Catholic and has said: "Egalitarianism, tolerance and the respect for conscience are the practical manifestations of faith, hope and charity."[4] He is the father of prominent Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer, Frank Brennan.

After retirement[edit]

Following retirement from the High Court, Sir Gerard was a Non-Permanent Judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal from (2000–2012),[5] and External Judge of the Supreme Court of Fiji (1999–2000), Chancellor of the University of Technology Sydney (1999–2005) and Foundation Scientia Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales (1998). He has been an Honorary Visiting Professor of Law at UNSW. In Hong Kong, he is known by a Chinese name (布仁立爵士, bou3 jan4 laap6 zoek3 si6).

In June 2021, Brennan intervened in a public debate over a family of asylum seekers, supporting the family with a letter in major newspapers.[6] It begins:

Are other Australians ashamed, as I am? How can Australia, proud of our freedoms, respectful of all our peoples, and insistent on human dignity, inflict cruelty on Australian children as a means of achieving a goal of government policy?[7]

Personal life[edit]

In 1953, Brennan married Dr. Patricia O'Hara. Lady Brennan died on 3 September 2019.[8] Their first child, Frank Brennan, born in 1954, became a Jesuit priest and achieved fame as an advocate for the rights of Aboriginal peoples.[4] He is known for his involvement in the Wik debate when Paul Keating referred to him as "the meddling priest".[9] A daughter, Bernardette, married Justin Gleeson, later Solicitor-General.[10]


In 1981, Brennan was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire[11] and, in 1988, appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in recognition of his service to the law.[12]

Brennan has been awarded honorary degrees by the University of Melbourne (Hon. LL.D.), University of Technology, Sydney (Hon. LL.D.), University of Queensland (Hon. LL.D.), Griffith University (Hon. D.Univ.), Central Queensland University (Hon. D.Litt.), Trinity College, Dublin (Hon. LL.D.) and Australian Catholic University (Hon LL.D). He is a Life Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.[13] He served as Chancellor of the University of Technology, Sydney from 1999 to 2005.[14]

In 2013, Brennan was awarded the Gold Bauhinia Star by the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.[15]


  1. ^ "The National Legal Eagle : Who's Who in the Legal Zoo: Sir Gerard Brennan AC, KBE – Former Chief Justice of the High Court". 2010. Archived from the original on 9 November 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  2. ^ a b The Oxford Companion to the High Court of Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. 2002. p. 755.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 May 2009. Retrieved 2008-06-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ a b "Online Catholics Issue 52 – Comment – Kate Mannix". Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  5. ^ "Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal – Former Judges – The Honourable Sir Gerard BRENNAN, GBS". Archived from the original on 30 December 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
  6. ^ Crowe, David (11 June 2021). "Deliberate cruelty to punish parents: Former High Court chief justice slams Tamil treatment". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  7. ^ "Obnoxious cruelty towards Tamil girls is un-Australian". Sydney Morning Herald. 11 June 2021. Retrieved 11 June 2021. The title covers several letters.
  8. ^ Homily for Patricia Brennan: Fr Frank Brennan SJ Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  9. ^ "Father Frank Brennan". Archived from the original on 29 November 2016. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  10. ^ Gadfly, The Saturday Paper, 14–20 May 2016, p. 17
  11. ^ "Brennan, Francis Gerard: The Order of the British Empire – Knights Commander (Civil)". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 3 April 1981. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  12. ^ "Brennan, Francis Gerard: Companion of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 26 January 1988. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  13. ^ "Australian Academy of Law - Member public profile". Australian Academy of Law. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  14. ^ "Timeline". About the University. University of Technology Sydney. 2011. Archived from the original on 11 November 2007. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  15. ^ "Civil And Miscellaneous Lists : Recipients of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Honours and Awards Grand Bauhinia Medal (G.B.M.)". 15 September 2016. Archived from the original on 29 October 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Anthony Mason
Chief Justice of Australia
Succeeded by
Murray Gleeson
Preceded by
New Court
Justice of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong
Academic offices
Preceded by
Chancellor of the University of Technology Sydney
Succeeded by
Vicki Sara