Vale – The Honourable Sir James Gobbo AC QC


Bar Roll No: 568

It is with deep regret that the Bar Council informs members of the death of Sir James Gobbo AC QC on Sunday, 7 November 2021 at the age of 90 years.

Sir James was born in Carlton in 1931 after his family immigrated from northern Italy in 1927. In 1935, the family returned to Italy however three years later, came back to Australia. In 1944, Sir James was accepted into Xavier College. Upon graduating, he studied law at Melbourne University where he became an enthusiastic member of Newman College.

In 1952, Sir James was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he studied a Master of Arts at Magdalen College. While reading at Oxford, Sir James became the president of the Oxford University Boat Club, rowing in the 100th Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race.

Sir James was admitted in 1956 and signed the bar roll in 1957, reading with the Honourable William O Harris. Between 1964 and 1971, he mentored eight readers, including the Honourable Peter C Heerey and the Honourable Dr Peter Buchanan. In 1971, Sir James was appointed silk.

In 1974, Sir James was elected to the Bar Council and was heavily involved in the reader’s course, serving on the Master & Reader Committee for several years. Throughout the 1970s, Sir James served on several Standing Committees of the Bar Council; always being extraordinarily generous with his time and abilities, constantly investing in the improvement of the Victorian Bar.

In 1978, Sir James was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria and continued serving on the bench until 1994.

In 1982, he was honoured with a knighthood for services to the community. In 1992, for service to the law, multicultural affairs and hospitals, Sir James was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.

In 1995, he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Victoria, and in 1997 was appointed by the Queen as the 25th governor of Victoria. After his retirement in 2000, Sir James was made commissioner for Italy for the Victorian government.

Throughout his career, he served on numerous boards and public positions, including holding the position of chairman of the Council of the National Library of Australia and chairman of the Australian Multicultural Foundation.

Sir James was well-known as being exceedingly sincere and genuine; an incredibly influential and prominent figure, continually displaying both an exceptionally high standard of achievement, and humility. Many have credited him as being one of the most significant leaders in establishing Australia’s modern multiculturalism, noted as being an outstanding Australian, whilst always being proud and conscious of his Italian heritage.

His distinctly eloquent spoken and written contributions to Australia’s judiciary system will be greatly remembered. Sir James was immensely devoted to his family; his wife, Shirley, their five children and grandchildren.

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