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The Hon Paddy Bergin AO SC at the Law Dinner

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News | 21 Apr 2024
The Honourable Patricia “Paddy” Bergin AO SC, former Chief Judge in Equity and Justice of Appeal of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and the International Judge of the Singapore International Commercial Court, was the guest of honour at the 2024 St John’s College Law Dinner.

Also present were various current and former judicial officers, politicians, members of the University of Sydney Faculty of Law, intercollegiate law students, and alumni of St John’s College including:
  • The Honourable Andrew Bell, Chief Justice of NSW.
  • Other Justices including Justice Anthony Meagher, Justice Robertson Wright, Justice Francois Kunc, Justice John Sackar, Justice Kate Williams, Justice Ian Pike, and Judge Gerard Phillips, as well as retired Judges Arthur Emmett and Sylvia Emmett.
  • The Attorney General of NSW and Member for the seat of Maroubra, Mr Michael Daley.
  • The Head of School, and Dean of the Sydney Law School, Professor Simon Bronitt.
  • Recently retired Professor of Law at the Sydney Law School, Emeritus Professor Barbara McDonald.
  • Former Ambassador to the Holy See, Mr John McCarthy KCSG GCPO KC.
  • Mr John Coorey, Chairman of the St John’s College Council.
  • Prof Bernadette Tobin, Former Chair of the St John’s College Council.

After the entrees, College staff and students passionately sang the Rogers and Hammerstein piece “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, passionately joined in from the audience by retired Judge Sylvia Emmett.

In front of a packed Hall, Ms Fiara Augustin (Arts/Law II) introduced Justice Bergin with kind and insightful words:
Justice Bergin is an embodiment of legal and judicial accomplishment, with over 40 years in the field that unites us all tonight. I myself am a grand total of one year and four months into my legal journey, as a second-year Arts/Law student. But even this brief stint has already instilled in me an understanding of the dedication the law requires, the patience it demands. I won’t pretend that sitting through a few tutorials a week means that I wholly grasp what it means to be a lawyer, nor a judge. What it has done is greatly deepened my admiration for and appreciation of the commitment to the law illustrated by Justice Bergin…..
In this dining hall filled with everything from first-year LLB students to long-serving legal practitioners, we can all look to Justice Bergin as an exemplar of exceptional skill in this discipline. Her stellar credentials have been made clear, I believe. So, I suppose all that’s left to say is that it is a tremendous privilege for St John’s College to welcome her here tonight, and could we all please offer the warmest welcome to the Honourable Paddy Bergin.
Justin Bergin’s brilliant speech, titled ‘Valuing and Supporting the Judiciary’, can be found here. Some enlightening and inspirational points from her address include:
There is a deep need for modern men and women of intellect, integrity and resilience with a proper understanding and respect for the Judiciary and the legal profession to take up a career in public service, be it politics, diplomacy, the law or some other aspects of public administration.  In this context it is not suggested that modernity is simply a reference to contemporaneity. Modern women and men must have the capacity to understand the different and rapidly changing world in which we now live….
The complexities of the way we now live and will live with these, but few examples, suggest the need for sophisticated adjustments to ensure that we are not left behind in these challenging times. This will require the involvement of modern and sophisticated women and men with drive, resilience, and a real interest in serving the public…
You are now that “new generation” to which Mr Whitlam referred and I trust and hope that you will be inspired in your careers to join and enjoy the wonderful, interesting, and rewarding times in any of the many choices of public service.

The vote of thanks was delivered by Ms Jemima Carmody (Arts/Law I), who eloquently summarised Justice Bergin not just as a luminary in the legal domain, but also as a great Australian and as an exemplary figure for young females entering the legal profession, as well as for all students of St John’s College. She affirmed, “we are taught here at St John’s to aim high to be leaders of Australia, always in the name of the common good, and Justice Bergin is truly an embodiment of that mantra.” Jemima also noted the pertinence of Justice Bergen’s discussion of this new generation’s crucial role in the future of our nation’s leadership and their responsibility to take care of our institutions of government through careers in public service.

The prize for the highest weighted average mark for a St John’s College student enrolled in a law degree at the University of Sydney was awarded to Fiara Augustin. Fiara was presented with a copy of a newly published book titled “Constant Guardian: Changing Times”, which details the 200 year history of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, which is being celebrated this May. This particular copy had a note of congratulations to Fiara penned and signed by Chief Justice Andrew Bell.

With the High Table looking more like the bench of the Supreme Court of NSW than ever before, conviviality was at a high point at College. It is such a privilege for our students to be able to converse with some of this State’s finest legal minds.

On behalf of the College Council, staff and students, can I extend our heartfelt thanks to Justice Bergin for her magnificent speech at the 2024 Law Dinner. As the Chair of Council Mr John Coorey mentioned in his closing remarks, the College has been blessed with some outstanding speakers over the last couple of years and Justice Bergin’s address added to this wonderful tradition established by so many distinguished guests of the College.
Dr Mark Schembri




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