Victor Windeyer

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Major General The Right Honourable
Sir Victor Windeyer
KBE, CB, DSO & Bar, ED, QC
Victor Windeyer 016473.JPG
Informal portrait of Brigadier William John Victor Windeyer in New Guinea, January 1944
Justice of the High Court of Australia
In office
8 September 1958 – 29 February 1972
Nominated by Robert Menzies
Preceded by Sir Dudley Williams
Succeeded by Sir Ninian Stephen
Personal details
Born 28 July 1900
Hunters Hill, New South Wales
Died 23 November 1987(1987-11-23) (aged 87)
Sydney, New South Wales
Military service
Allegiance Australia
Service/branch Australian Army
Years of service 1918–1953
Rank Major General
Commands 2nd Division
20th Brigade
2/48th Battalion

Second World War

Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order & Bar
Mentioned in Despatches (3)
Efficiency Decoration

Major General Sir William John Victor Windeyer, KBE, CB, DSO & Bar, ED, QC (28 July 1900 – 23 November 1987) was an Australian judge, soldier, educator, and a Justice of the High Court of Australia.

Early life and career[edit]

Windeyer was born in Sydney, into a legal family: his father, William Archibald Windeyer,[1] was a Sydney solicitor, his uncle, Richard Windeyer, was a King's Counsel, his grandfather, William Charles Windeyer, was twice Attorney-General of New South Wales and Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and his great-grandfather, Sir Richard Windeyer, was a barrister and member of the first elected Parliament of New South Wales, sitting in the New South Wales Legislative Council. Windeyer studied at Sydney Grammar School and later at the University of Sydney, from where he graduated with a Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws in 1922. He also won the University Medal in History.[citation needed]

In 1925, Windeyer was admitted to the New South Wales Bar Association. From 1929 to 1940, he lectured at the University of Sydney, teaching equity and commercial law, and until 1936, legal history. His book Essays in Legal History published in 1938 was for many years a standard textbook on the subject.[2]

He married Margaret and they had four children Margaret, Bill, Jim and Frank. In 1938 he built a home called Peroomba[3] in Warrawee which only passed out of family ownership in 2008.[4]

Military career[edit]

Windeyer's military career began in 1918, although he did not see active service during the First World War.[5] In 1922 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Militia and attached to the Sydney University Scouts, being promoted to the rank of captain two years later. In 1929 he was promoted to major and in 1937, upon being promoted to lieutenant colonel, he took command of the Sydney University Regiment.[5]

In 1940, following the outbreak of the Second World War, Windeyer volunteered for overseas service and joined the Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF).[6] Holding the rank of lieutenant colonel, he was tasked with raising and commanding the 2/48th Australian Infantry Battalion, part of the 9th Division. The 9th Division fought in the North African Campaign, including the Siege of Tobruk, the New Guinea Campaign and the Borneo Campaign. He was later promoted to brigadier, and commanded the 20th Infantry Brigade, during which time he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the Middle East".[7]

Following the war, Windeyer was discharged from the 2nd AIF in early 1946,[6] and returned to the Citizens Military Force, which was re-raised in 1948. In 1944 he had been created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire,[6] From 1950 to 1952 he commanded the 2nd Division after being promoted to major general.[5] He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1953 for his military services.[8]

Justice of the High Court and Privy Council[edit]

After returning to Australia, Windeyer continued to practise as a barrister. He was also Deputy-Chancellor of the university from 1955 to 1958.[citation needed] In 1949 he was made a King's Counsel.[citation needed] He was appointed to the bench of the High Court on 8 September 1958. Later that year he was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE). One of his first judgments on the court was when he joined in the unanimous judgement of the court in a constitutional case Browns Transport Pty Ltd v Kropp[9] which considered whether the imposition of licensing fees under a state statute in relation to a licence for the carriage of goods amounts to the imposition of a duty of excise within the meaning of s. 90 of the Constitution, which denies to the States the power to impose such duties. One of his first separate judgements was Commonwealth v Butler.[10]

He made a considerable contribution to the jurisprudence of the court in Victoria v Commonwealth[11] the "Payroll Tax case" in his interpretation of the meaning[12] of the Engineers Case.[13] He sat on the bench of the High Court until his retirement on 29 February 1972.

He was elevated to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1963.[citation needed]

Later life and death[edit]

On their acquisition of the 6th, 7th, 8th & 9th Floors of Mena House at 225 Macquarie Street, Sydney Chambers by Counsel's Chambers Limited in 1983 the new chambers were named Windeyer Chambers in his honour. He opened the new chambers on 15 June 1984.[14] Windeyer died in 1987. One of his sons, William Victor Windeyer, followed him into the legal profession and as of 2005 was a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales; he also served in the military, receiving the Reserve Force Decoration.[15]


  1. ^ (1871–1943)
  2. ^ Sydney: Law Book Co., 1938 second edition 1957, reprinted 1974
  3. ^ Apparently after an Aboriginal word meaning wattle scrub, after the trees that once grew on the former horse paddock.
  4. ^ North Shore Times, NSW. Retrieved 9 May 2012
  5. ^ a b c "NX396 Major General William John Victor Windeyer, KBE, CB, DSO & Bar". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 10 January 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c "Windeyer, William John Victor". World War 2 Nominal Roll. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  7. ^ London Gazette No. 35898 page 743 "At the War Office 11 February 1943
  8. ^ London Gazette No. 39865 page 2997.
  9. ^ (1958) 100 CLR 117
  10. ^ (1958) 102 CLR 465
  11. ^ (1971) 122 CLR 353; [1971] ALR 449; (1971) 45 ALJR 251
  12. ^ Goldsworthy, J 'Justice Windeyer on the Engineers' Case' [2009] UMonashLRS 13
  13. ^ Amalgamated Society of Engineers v Adelaide Steamship Co Ltd (1920) 28 CLR 129
  14. ^ Counsels Chambers Limited
  15. ^ "Judicial Officer Contact Details". New South Wales Government. Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 23 June 2012.