Louis Waller

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Professor Louis Peter Waller AO (b. 1935) is an Australian jurist. He is particularly well known for his work in medical and criminal law. He was Sir Leo Cussen Professor of Law at Monash University from 1965 until 2000. He was the chairman of a number of medical and legal organisations, including the Infertility Treatment Authority.[1] The Emeritus Professor continues to teach a course in Forensic Medicine to Monash University Law students at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine.

Early life[edit]

Waller was born in Siedlce, Poland, on 10 February 1935. The child of Polish Jews, Waller's parents realised that the family was in danger of persecution from the increasingly threatening Nazi regime in Germany. They managed to flee to Australia in 1938. The majority of his family which remained in Europe, however, died during the Holocaust.

In Australia, Waller attended University High School in Melbourne. He then studied law at the University of Melbourne. When he graduated in 1956, he went to England where he obtained a Bachelor of Civil Law from the University of Oxford.[1]

He married Wendy Poyser in 1959 and they together had four children: Michael (dec.), Anthony, Ian and Elly. Anthony and Elly live in Israel. Ian practises as a barrister in Melbourne and was appointed Senior Counsel in 2007.

Professional career[edit]

Waller's career in academia began in the late 1950s, when he was appointed tutor and then senior lecturer at Melbourne University. In 1958, Monash University was founded and, a few years later, it opened a new law school. Its Foundation Dean, Professor David Derham, was a friend of Waller's who knew of his teaching and intellectual abilities. He invited Waller to help him create the new Monash Law School. On 1 June 1965, he was appointed Professor. Three years later, he was appointed Dean of Law, a position he held until 1970, after which he returned to focus on teaching and research. An apparently brilliant teacher, his students included future Justice of the High Court of Australia Kenneth Hayne, Chief Justice of Victoria Marilyn Warren and human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC. Hayne later described Waller as an "electric" law lecturer,[2] while Burnside has described him as "the best teacher I have ever seen".

At Monash, he developed his expertise in the criminal law, and authored the first Australian casebook in that field. Through his teaching and research, he is credited with elevating the status of criminal law in Australia, a field which had often been looked down upon.[2] He continues to author the leading casebook on Australian criminal law, now in its 10th edition.

Waller developed particular interest in medical law and medical ethics. He wrote prolifically on in-vitro fertilisation, a practice which was coincidentally pioneered in the Medicine Faculty at Monash. At the Law Reform Commission, Waller chaired a groundbreaking committee which looked at the possible legal framework surrounding IVF for the first time.[3] When the Victorian Government created the first IVF legislation, it largely adopted Waller's model.

As his career progressed, he became recognised as one of Australia's leading scholars. In 1982, he became the first Law Reform Commissioner of Victoria and, two years later, became the inaugural Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission. His expertise in the field of medical law has led to appointments on a number of medical and judicial committees. He is Chairman of the Infertility Treatment Authority, the Appeals Committee of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and the Ethics Committee of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.[1]

Waller formally retired from Monash Law School in 2000 as its most senior academic. However, he has continued his teaching and research as Emeritus Professor of Law. Upon his retirement, the school established the Louis Waller Chair of Law in his honour.