The Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History

The Dowling Legacy

Foundations of an Australian legal culture 1828 to 1844


This publication is a revised, edited transcript of the 2004 Forbes Lecture. The subject of the lecture was Sir James Dowling, Second Chief Justice of New South Wales, and the Supreme Court under his stewardship, and was given in two parts. T. D. Castle focuses on Dowling’s time in the Supreme Court and his contribution to the development of Australian legal culture, illustrated by case examples. Bruce Kercher examines the challenges Dowling faced in adapting English law to the new colony, in particular regarding a person’s legal status as an Aborigine, convict or free subject of the King.

Table of Contents


The 2004 Forbes Lecture
The Chairman’s introduction
Andrew Tink MP
Justice Dowling and the work of the Supreme Court in the Dowling era
T.D. Castle
The Chairman’s remarks
Andrew Tink MP
Challenges in adaptation of early English law to early New South Wales
Bruce Kercher
Commentary from the Chair
Andrew Tink MP
Presentation by Wendy Robinson QC


The work of the Forbes Society
Geoff Lindsay SC
Appendix – Monarchs, governors and judges of New South Wales in the Dowling era

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