Sir William Patrick Deane

Sir William Patrick Deane

Sir William Patrick Deane

The 22nd Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia and, according to the results of the 1999 republic referendum, the first choice of most Australians to be the country's first president, Sir William Deane laid the foundations of his career with a Law degree from the University of Sydney.

The Melbourne-born Deane graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts (1951) and a Bachelor of Laws (1954) before attending The Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands. Upon returning to Australia, Deane lectured at the University and was called to the Sydney Bar in 1957. Nine years later he was appointed Queen's Counsel.

In 1977, Deane became a judge of the Federal Court and the President of the Australian Trade Practices Tribunal and in 1982 was appointed a Justice of the High Court of Australia. During his 14 years in this position, he resided over significant cases such as the landmark 1992 Mabo case, in which the High Court rejected the doctrine of terra nullius. An honorary Doctor of Laws was conferred upon Deane in 1990 by the University.

After having retired from the High Court bench, Deane was appointed Governor General on 16 February 1996, and focussed his efforts on Reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. Four years later, he launched the Racism. No way! Project, which seeks to help Australian school communities and education systems understand and address racism in the learning environment. Deane proved a particularly popular Governor General, with polls from the 1999 republic referendum indicating him as the most popular choice for Australia’s first president if it was to become a republic.