Professor Louis Waller AO: 1935-2019

October 11, 2019 by Community Editor
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Melbourne community stalwart and highly-jurist Professor Louis Waller has passed away at the age of 84.

Professor Louis Waller

His son, Ian Waller SC delivered the following eulogy:

“After graduating from University High, Dad became a first-year student in the

Law School of the University of Melbourne in 1952. He had just turned 17.

Finishing almost at the top of his year, he obtained a valuable scholarship which made it possible for him to apply for admission to the demanding Bachelor of Civil Law course at Oxford University which he completed with a rare first-class honours degree.

After his marriage to Wendy in January 1959, Mum and Dad returned to Melbourne where Dad took up an appointment as a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Melbourne. Dad spent six years at the Melbourne Law Faculty where he pioneered the development of introductory first-year law teaching.

With Peter Brett he also developed Criminal Law as a substantial subject, preparing materials to enable teaching to take place as an interactive process following the Socratic method that was used in American law schools.

One of his students at that time, Kenneth Hayne, who later went on to become a High Court judge and more recently Royal Commissioner, described Dad’s teaching style as “electric”.

In 1964, Dad was appointed as the Sir Leo Cussen Professor of Law at the newly established Law School at Monash University. He was 29 years old.

In 1968, aged 33, he became Dean of the Law School.

In 1982 Dad was appointed Law Reform Commissioner for the State of Victoria and later the first Chairperson of the newly created Law Reform Commission. During that time he helped produce reports that led to ground-breaking reforms to the criminal law.

In 1982 he was also appointed to chair the Victorian Government’s Committee to consider the Social, Ethical and Legal issues arising from IVF. The report of the Waller Committee led to landmark world-first legislation which would change forever the lives of those struggling with infertility.

In addition to co-authoring seminal textbooks on criminal law and legal process, Dad published dozens of major articles and chapters in books in the fields of criminal law, legal education, evidence, criminology, forensic medicine and medical technology and law reform.

In 2000 when he reached 65 (which he would refer to as “statutory senility”), he was appointed “Emeritus Professor”. In that role, he continued to lecture until 2013, 2 years shy of his 80th birthday.

As a teacher, Dad influenced tens of thousands of law students, who went on to serve the community as solicitors, barristers, judges and academics. The ripple effect of his influence was profound.

In 1972, he became Foundation President of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and his work for the Red Cross on international humanitarian law led to him being made an Honorary Life Member in 1985. He also served as Chairman of the Appeals Committee of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons between 1998-2006.

In 1989 Dad was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia. He was particularly proud that the citation recognised his contribution as a “public teacher of law”.

And Dad’s service to the Australian Jewish community has also been significant.

He helped establish programs to enhance tertiary Jewish studies at both Monash University and the University of Melbourne. He also served on the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and of Tel Aviv University. Together with Mum, he was actively involved with Bnai Brith for decades and also the Makor Library and Jewish Care.

It will be for others to assess Dad’s significant contribution in all these areas.

But what is no less significant is that Dad’s involvement and contribution in all of these areas never came at the expense of his commitment to his family.

Ultimately a rare medical condition afflicted Dad’s heart. But he never stopped being wise-hearted.

And in his final days in this World, his heart refused to give in.

It kept beating until all his children had gathered around him.

And It kept beating until three of his grand-daughters arrived a day later from Israel.

And it kept beating still until all of us had begun to recite the Kol Nidrei prayer on Yom Kippur gathered around his hospital bed singing the haunting melodies that have resonated with our people for centuries and which he loved.

Professor Louis Waller AO:

Born: February 10, 1935, Siedlce, Poland

Died: October 8, 2019, Melbourne

This is an edited version of Ian Waller’s eulogy.

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