UniSA honours the outstanding legal career of John Mansfield AM

John Mansfield AMOne of Australia’s most respected judges and an expert in Native Title, the Honourable John Mansfield AM, will be recognised for his commitment and service to the law, judiciary and wider community, when he is awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Australia later today.

Sworn in as a Justice of the Federal Court of Australia in September 1996, Mansfield served for nearly 20 years on the bench before retiring in August last year.

Highlights of his 50-year career in the legal profession include landmark decisions in Native Title Law, significant improvements to Competition Law, and a dedicated contribution to developing the courts of Vietnam, China and the Pacific.

Mansfield’s dedication to developing quality legal education has been evidenced across many forums, in particular through his long association with the University of South Australia and its Business School.  

He provided advice during the establishment stage of the UniSA Law School in 2007 and today he still holds the Chair of the School of Law Advisory Board.

Mansfield was admitted to practice as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of South Australia, and of the Northern Territory, in 1969 and 1971 respectively.

In 1985 he was appointed as a Queen's Counsel for South Australia, an appointment reiterated in Northern Territory in 1988.

In 1991, Justice Mansfield was counsel assisting the Commissioner of the Royal Commission into State Bank of South Australia - one of the State’s most prominent legal cases.

Joining the Federal Court shortly after the establishment of the Native Title Act, Mansfield shaped its jurisprudence with clear and sometimes bold expression of ideas.

As the docket judge for the Northern Territory and for South Australia between 2003 and 2016, he heard a great number of Native Title claims and his specialist knowledge in this area led to his appointment as the Aboriginal Land Commissioner in 2011, an appointment that has been ongoing.

Mansfield developed a deep understanding of how Aboriginal law and customs operate, and how the Aboriginal language communicates ideas and subtleties about the connection of people to the land.

Known for his careful and empathetic application of the Native Title legislation, he delivered 145 judgements, including 20 Full Court decisions, in Native Title over the span of his career.

His work in Competition Law demonstrated his acute ability to master economics and law across complex cases and his work on the Australian Competition Tribunal as its Deputy President from 2008 to 2011, and as President from 2011 until this year, has also made a huge contribution in this field.

Recognising mutuality and education as the keys to strengthening regional partnerships, Mansfield’s important international work in  the South Pacific and South East Asia has led to improved operations and governance of international jurisdictions, as well as capacity-building through training and education. 

University of South Australia Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd says the Honorary Doctorate acknowledges not only Mansfield’s enduring commitment to the University but also his significant contribution to legal education and to building stronger societies.

“John’s leadership and service to the law has been exceptional, both at UniSA and across local and international communities,” Prof Lloyd says.

“From his most important Native Title rulings, his work with developing international judiciaries and his generosity and dedication to education and training, John brought both great energy and great warmth to his work.

“His integrity and his career contribution to society both locally and internationally is an inspiration for others.

“That great commitment to service was acknowledged in June 2009 when he was named a Member of the Order of Australia and we are especially proud to honour John today.”

Mansfield says the award is a great honour.

“To receive such momentous recognition from UniSA, such a dynamic and forward-thinking educational institution, is an honour I never dreamt of and which I shall treasure immensely,” Mansfield says.

Media contact: Michèle Nardelli mobile: 0418823673 email: Michele.Nardelli@unisa.edu.au

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