ANU Hidden Gems – The bust of Sir Robert Garran

Bust of Sir Robert Garran
Photo: Stuart Hay, ANU

The rest of the statue is a dull bronze, but the nose shines like a light.

If you're studying for exams and feeling like you might need some luck, perhaps you should stop past the ANU College of Law's Law Library and rub the nose of Sir Robert Garran's bust.

Famous for being one of the University's founding fathers, it has been said that rubbing Sir Robert's bust can bring good luck.

The bust was presented to the University in 1952 by the Canberra University College's Staff Association, prior to the college merging with ANU in 1960. We're told the bust was originally in the Law Library at the old Childers Street huts - the location of the original ANU Law School.

Sir Garran's association with ANU dates back to mid-century, where he served on the ANU Interim Council from 1946 to 1951, while the federal government was still in the midst of developing a national university.

He was also one of the authors of the Australian Constitution and on 7 December 1951, ANU conferred its first degree of an Honorary Doctor of Laws on Sir Garran, who was a steadfast advocate of university education in Canberra.

For decades now though, it would seem that Law students have been well aware of the bust's existence, with many rubbing its nose for good luck ahead of exams or grades being released.

But when did the tradition start?

"The nose-rubbing was well-established when I joined the staff in 1962," Emeritus Professor David Hambly says.

"The placement of the bust on the Library stairs was a matter for discussion by staff and students when we moved into our present home in 1968," he says.

ANU Law Alumnus Stephen Priest (LLB(H)/BAS '12) says, for him, it wasn't so much hearing about the tradition, as it was seeing it.

"The rest of the statue is a dull bronze, but the nose shines like a light," he says.

Priest says he started rubbing the nose for good luck in his first year of study, whenever he went up and down the stairs - a tradition he continued to do during the exam periods for the rest of his studies at ANU.

"It wasn't so much that I believed it would give me good luck, but more a cure for the boredom of study that exam season generates," he quips.

"That and it kind of felt like drawing on the wisdom of all those who had rubbed the nose before me."

"Did it bring me good luck? Probably not. I mean, I passed all my exams. But not because I was rubbing the nose - probably more so because of the study break that the walk from level 2 to level 1 allowed."

We asked Professor Hambly whether he thought the act of rubbing the nose of Garran's bust has brought students good luck over the decades.

"I do not know of any scientifically rigorous studies of the effectiveness of the practice. It could be difficult to persuade students to be in a control group," he says jokingly.

This article was first published in On Campus on 9 June, 2017. If you know of a hidden gem you'd like On Campus to explore and write an article on, you can contact All suggestions are welcome and you don't even have to know the history of the hidden gem!


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