Robin Millhouse

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Robin Rhodes Millhouse RFD, QC (born 9 December 1929) has been, at various times, the Attorney-General of South Australia, the first Australian Democrats parliamentarian, and the Chief Justice of both Kiribati and Nauru.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Millhouse was born in Adelaide, to father Vivian Rhodes Millhouse, and mother Grace Lilly Ayliffe. Millhouse gained an LLB from the University of Adelaide in 1951.


While practising as a barrister, Millhouse entered the South Australian House of Assembly on 7 May 1955 as the Liberal and Country League (LCL) member for Mitcham, a safe LCL seat in southeastern Adelaide.[1] Millhouse rapidly gained a reputation as both the intellectual driving force behind the LCL and an outspoken spokesperson for the urban middle class faction of the LCL, a group under-represented within the party hierarchy.

Millhouse ran for the LCL leadership pre-selection following leader Sir Thomas Playford's retirement, but lost to Steele Hall, another member of the LCL's progressive faction. Instead, following the LCL's return to power at the 1968 election, Millhouse was given the portfolios of Attorney-General,[1] Aboriginal Affairs, Social Welfare, and Labour and Industry. In these roles, Millhouse gained a reputation as a crusader for progressive social change as he sought to position South Australia as a national leader on social issues. During 1969 Millhouse legalised abortion in South Australia, a decision he would come to regret decades later.[1]

In the wake of the LCL's 1970 election loss, Millhouse was elected Deputy Leader of the Opposition on 2 June but resigned from the party on 18 March 1973 to form the Liberal Movement following growing dissatisfaction at the continuing conservatism of the LCL.[2] While a number of other senior LCL members, including former premier Steele Hall, also joined the Liberal Movement, all except Millhouse eventually returned to the Liberal Party. Millhouse chose instead to form a new political party, named the New LM,[1] before merging that with the Australia Party, the Centre-Line Party and other like minded groups to form the Australian Democrats and, as a sitting member, became the first Australian Democrats Member of Parliament.[1] As a Democrat, he continued to campaign for progressive social issues, including the introduction of a bill to legalise prostitution in South Australia.[3]

Taking silk[edit]

After having been made a Queen's Counsel in 1979,[1] Millhouse resigned from parliament on 7 July 1982, sparking a Mitcham by-election,[4] upon accepting a position as a South Australian Supreme Court justice. He served on the Supreme Court until his retirement due to age in December 1999.[1]

Further judicial appointments[edit]

At his Retirement Sitting, he announced his appointment as Chief Justice of the High Court of Kiribati,[1] a position he held until Jan 2011. He was Chief Justice of Nauru from early 2006 [1] to late 2010.

He acted as the Chief Justice of High Court of Tuvalu in February 2014[5] and March 2015.

Personal life[edit]

He married Ann (deceased 1992) in 1957 and has three daughters and two sons.[1]

Political offices
Preceded by
Don Dunstan
Attorney-General of South Australia
Succeeded by
Len King
Parliament of South Australia
Preceded by
Henry Dunks
Member for Mitcham
Succeeded by
Heather Southcott

Millhouse was one of the original members of the Adelaide University Regiment, joining when it was being raised by (then Captain later Lt Colonel) R. J. Lipman. Millhouse continued a member of the Citizen Military Forces (now known as the Army Reserve) until 1974 serving in several different Reserve units. His final posting was as Commanding Officer of the Adelaide University Regiment. After that posting he refused transfer to the Legal Corps saying he joined the Army to be a soldier not a lawyer in uniform. To Millhouse the Army was either a third professional career (with the Law and politics) or as a full-time hobby.

Millhouse had been in the habit since his late teens of having a run each morning, persuaded by Lt Colonel Lipman. After going on the Reserve of Officers Millhouse took up long distance running. He ran seven or eight marathons, twice breaking three hours. He later switched to triathlons, doing well in his successive age groups.

Always keen on physical fitness Millhouse climbed Mt Kinabalu in 1999 and Mt Kilimanjaro in 2000.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j John Emerson (2006). History of the Independent Bar of South Australia. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Barr Smith Press. p. 134. ISBN 0-86396-835-X. Retrieved 30 Jan 2010. 
  2. ^ "The 1970s". SA Memory:Past, Present for the Future. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 30 Jan 2010. 
  3. ^ "Sex Industry Page 4". 10 May 2007. Retrieved 30 Jan 2010. 
  4. ^ "Political Chronicle—Australia and Papua New Guinea: July-December 1982". doi:10.1111/j.1467-8497.1983.tb00304.x. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  5. ^ "Tuvalu Judge unable to transit via Fiji". Cook Islands News. Retrieved 28 April 2014.