The immediate past Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, the Honourable Robert French AC, has been appointed the 15th Chancellor of The University of Western Australia.
Dr French will succeed Dr Michael Chaney AO when his 12 year term expires later this year. Dr Chaney will officially stand down at the conclusion of the Senate meeting on December 11.
Dr Chaney said the Senate was delighted to have been able to attract a community leader of such national and international standing and experience to the role.
“Dr French’s combination of skills, experience and community standing make him the ideal person to be the next Chancellor of The University of Western Australia. He is widely respected by staff, students and the community,” Dr Chaney said.
Justice French was the twelfth Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, and the first Western Australian to head the highest court in Australia. He is a graduate of The University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Science in Physics in 1968 followed by a Bachelor of Laws in 1971. He received an Honorary Doctorate from the University in 2011. He was made an Adjunct Professor at the Law School in 2016.
As an undergraduate, Dr French led an active student life. He was President of the University’s Liberal Club and served briefly as Treasurer of the UWA Student Guild in 1970 and was elected by the student body as a member of the University’s governing body – the Senate. He also served as the first Chancellor of Edith Cowan University from its foundation in 1991 until 1997.
Dr French has been an active advocate for the rights of Indigenous Australians. In the early 1970s, he helped found the WA Aboriginal Legal Service and was its Chairman from 1973 to 1975. He was President of the National Native Title Tribunal from 1994 to 1998.
Dr French said he was honoured to have been appointed by the Senate to the Office of Chancellor.
“The University of Western Australia is a world-class institution of higher education and research. It provided me, as it has provided countless others, with the intellectual resources and experiences that formed the foundation of my life in the law and in public office. In the resource-rich state of Western Australia, the University is one of its richest human and institutional resources, an asset not only to the state but also to the nation,” he said.
“As one of the first two undergraduates elected to the Senate of the University in 1971 it is a particular delight to be able to return to that body as Chancellor in 2017. In doing so I have the good fortune to inherit the immense legacy of good governance resulting from the work of Dr Michael Chaney who has served as Chancellor for the past 12 years.
“I look forward to working with the Vice-Chancellor, the Senate and members of the University community in the continuing pursuit of excellence in everything that the University does.”