Our history

Our history

Ranked among the world’s top 15 law schools, the ANU College of Law is Australia’s national law school since its establishment as part of the Canberra University College in 1958. The College has been home to some of the world’s foremost legal academics and it counts a range of high profile Australians among its alumni of over 18,300.

The following timeline provides a brief snapshot of our history. You can also download PDF iconA brief history of ANU Law (9.2 MB).

The University confers Honorary Degrees to highly eminent individuals in recognition of their significant contributions and achievements. Throughout the College's history we have awarded the Honorary Doctor of Laws (HonLLD) to the recipients listed on the following page, for exceptional contributions to public service or to the practice of law that is recognised nationally or internationally. 

The University also recognises students who have obtained First Class Honours and demonstrated exceptional academic excellence across their studies. A list of ANU Law University Medal recipients is available on the Student prizes and awards page.

Our historic building

The first wing of our historic Law building was built in 1965 by architects O'Mahoney Neville & Morgan.

The architectural characteristics demonstrate elements of the late-twentieth century stripped classical style including the symmetrical facades, regular basys with height exceeding width, a horizontal skyline and a lack of classical detailing.

The cast in-situ concrete arches provide a stylistic reference to similar elements of the adjacent Chifley Library, also designed by O'Mahoney. The arches are clad in 'special rendered facing' specifically chosen for the complex.

Windows are spaced uniformly throughout the complex, providing a vertical perspective to the long horizontal buildings.

Two large oaks have been retained in Latham Court, on the Law lawns.

Deans of the College

  • John Fleming (1959 – 1960)
  • Harold Ford (1960 – 1961)
  • Jack Richardson (1961 – 1966) and (1968 – 1970)
  • Harry Whitmore (1970 – 1972)
  • Patrick Atiyah (1972 – 1973)
  • Leslie Zines (1973 – 1975)
  • Douglas Whalan (1975 – 1977)
  • Don Greig (1977 – 1980)
  • David Hambly (1980 – 1982)
  • Dennis Pearce (1982 – 1984)
  • Leslie Zines (1984 – 1986)
  • David Hambly (1986 – 1988)
  • Don Greig (1988 – 1991)
  • Dennis Pearce (1991 – 1993)
  • Tom Campbell (1995 – 1997)
  • Michael Coper (1998 – 2012)
  • Stephen Bottomley (since 2013)

1946

The Australian National University is established

Anu established
On the 1 August 1946, the Bill establishing The Australian National University is passed by Federal Parliament.


1951

First law degree conferred

Sir Robert Garran 1951
On 7 December 1951, ANU confers its first degree of an Honorary Doctor of Laws on Sir Robert Garran, one of the authors of the Australian Constitution and a long-time advocate of university education in Canberra.


1951

Bust of Sir Robert Garran

Bust of Sir Robert Garran
Professor Herbert Burton presented a bust to Sir Robert Garran in 1952. It now lives in the Law Library. Everyone rubs his nose for good luck!


1958

Faculty of Law established

Faculty of Law established
Faculty of Law established at the Canberra University College.


1960

Amalgamation into ANU School of General Studies

Amalgamation
Canberra University College (including the Faculty of Law) incorporated into the ANU School of General Studies.


1960-65

Law teaching in the Childers Street huts

Childers Street huts 1930 - 1960
Following the amalgamation of the Canberra University College into the ANU in 1960, law teaching continued in the College’s old premises – the Childers Street huts.


1960s

Bengali Law Reports

Bengali Law Reports - The Phantom comic case law annotations
The Bengali Law Reports - created by Paul Sheehan and lodged in the ANU Law Library - are part of ANU folklore, annotating comics summarising the law and moral code of Phantom comic episodes.


1963

ANU Law Students' Society established

ANU Law Students' Society
The ANU Law Students' Society dates from 1963 and has grown to be one of the largest societies on campus.


1964

Federal Law Review first published

Federal Law Review journal
Published since 1964, the Federal Law Review is recognised as one of Australia's leading academic law journals.


1965

First wing of Law building completed

ANU Law Building, June 1965
The first wing of the new Law building is completed in 1965. The architects are O’Mahoney Neville & Morgan.


1967

First Master of Laws (LLM) awarded

ANU Law, October 1965
As well as the Bachelor of Laws (LLB), the College has offered postgraduate programs since its commencement. The Master of Laws (LLM) was initially a research degree and was first awarded to David Anderson in 1967.


1971

ANU Legal Workshop founded

The Hon Kevin O'Leary
The Hon Kevin O’Leary was the founding director of ANU Legal Workshop – during this time, Law was heralded as the ‘most innovative faculty on campus'.


1971

The Law School lawns

Law School lawns 1971
Students (relaxing in deck chairs!)vback in 1971, taking a break from study on the Law School lawns.


1972

First University-based PLT program in Australia

ANU Practical Legal Training
ANU Legal Workshop offered the first University-based Practical Legal Training (PLT) program in Australia


1976

First PhD awarded

Dr James O'Donovan
Dr James O’Donovan graduated with the first PhD from ANU in Law in 1976. He is now an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia Law School.


1981, 2010 & 2016

Won the Jessup Moot

Jessup Moot Cup
In 1981 and again in 2010 teams from ANU Law won the Jessup International Mooting Competition in Washington DC, defeating teams from around the world. 1981 team: Vivienne Bath, Andrew Byrnes,Chris Erskine and Tom Faunce. 2010 team: Ellen Chapple, Rohan Kapur, Sarah Lynch, Sneha Rangnath and Sam Thorpe. In 2016, the ANU Law team won the National round, and competed in Washington in the International round. 2016 team: James Barrett, Dan Trevanion, Matilda Gillis, Tara Peramatukorn and William Randles.


1984

Master of Laws (LLM) in coursework program commenced

LLM coursework commenced
The College’s postgraduate coursework programs are now the largest in Australia.


1989

Centre for International & Public Law established

Philip Alston
With the appointment of Professor Philip Alston as founding director, CIPL was the first centre in the College and one of the earliest ventures by an Australian law school to set up a research centre concentrating on a particular field of law.


1998

Annual Geoffrey Sawer lecture inaugurated

Geoffrey Sawer
The College inaugurated the annual Geoffrey Sawer lecture in honour of the first Professor of Law at ANU. The lecture has since been delivered by such luminaries as Sir Ninian Stephen, Sir Gerard Brennan, and Professor Leslie Zines. Geoffrey Sawer was appointed as the first Professor of Law at ANU in 1950.


2007

Visitors program

Dalai Lama 2007
We have an extraordinary visitors program that has seen some of the world's most eminent lawyers and public figures spend time at the College. Visitors have included: the Dalai Lama, Justices of the US Supreme Court, Justices of the High Court of Australia, former Prime Ministers and many others.


2008

Eminent legal experts

Emeritus Professors
We have been honoured to have many of the country's most eminent legal experts as members of the College. Pictured together in 2008 were Emeritus Professors (clockwise from back left) Dennis Pearce, David Hambly, Jim Davis, Don Greig, Jack Richardson and Leslie Zines.


2014

Home to over 25 per cent of ANU students

25 percent of students
ANU College of Law is now home to over 25 per cent of students at The Australian National University.


2015

Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) - top rating of 5, for the third time running

ERA rating
ANU Law contributes significantly to the ANU top rating of 5 in Excellence in Research Australia (ERA). We are one of only two Australian universities who have achieved this rating in all three of the ERA rounds, in 2010, 2012, and again in 2015.


2015

New entrance foyer

New foyer and entrance
On 17 November 2015 we opened our new entrance foyer which features better spaces for students, greater recognition of alumni achievements, and new facilities for formal functions and presentations.


2015

Australia's only 20/20 law school

20/20 law school
In 2015 ANU Law became Australia's only 20/20 law school - a world's top 20 law school at a world's top 20 university. (QS World University Rankings 2015)


2016

Permanent Court of Arbitration scholarship

Permanent Court of Arbitration
ANU College of Law announced as only Australian university to offer scholarship to Permanent Court of Arbitration


Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team