Man on the Bondi tram

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The man on the Bondi tram is a fictional legal character used in civil law in New South Wales, Australia, representing an ordinary person.[1] Jurors, for example, have been directed to consider what the man on the Bondi tram would think of whether a statement is defamatory. The phrase borrows from the English formulation of the 'man on the Clapham omnibus',[2] who personifies an average, reasonable person. It is comparable to the phrase 'the man in the street'.

Government trams were discontinued in Sydney in the 1950s, to be replaced by buses. The present-day equivalent of a Bondi tram is a '380 bus', also somewhat notorious for overcrowding in its own right. Hence, the saying 'the man on the Bondi tram' has been out of date since the 1950s. A single limited light rail service has been reinstated in the CBD of Sydney and Inner West, but most original tram tracks have been overlaid with tarmac road surfaces. Historically, the names of the beach suburbs 'Maroubra Junction' and 'Bondi Junction' derive from tram junctions, when all of the eastern Sydney beaches were served with tram lines.

Both phrases "the man on the Bondi tram" and "the man on the Clapham omnibus" should also be obsolete because of their inherent assumption that the typical non-lawyer is a man. However it is unclear at best whether this assumption has been displaced from Australian judicial reasoning. Judgements in cases on domestic violence, provocation and rape within marriage, to name a few, continue to rely on the implicit assumption that the male perspective is the only rational one.[3]


  1. ^ Nomikos Papatonakis v Australian Telecommunications Commission (1985) 156 CLR 7 at 36 (Deane J).
  2. ^ Asprey, Michèle M. (2010) [2003]. Plain Language for Lawyers. Federation Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-86287-775-7. 
  3. ^ Equality before the Law: Women's Equality Equality before the Law: Women's Equality [1994] ALRC 69