About Us

Gilbert + Tobin

In 2000 Danny Gilbert, Managing Partner of the law firm Gilbert + Tobin, was approached by UNSW Law and the firm generously agreed to support a centre of public law.

As Danny Gilbert wrote on the 10th anniversary of the Centre’s establishment:

A corporate law firm operating in accordance with the best traditions of the law has the opportunity each day to apply and support the rule of law. Opportunities to help refurbish and invigorate it are less obvious. And so, when in March 2000 I was approached by Professor Paul Redmond the then Dean of the University of New South Wales Law School, asking if Gilbert + Tobin would fund the establishment of a centre of public law, my response was visceral and immediate. I knew that such a centre was important and that my partners would support it. To be able to fund an organisation devoted to informed public debate about laws vital to Australia’s future as an open and democratic society is a great privilege.

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2015 Con Law Panel


George Williams was the Centre’s Foundation Director (2001-2008). He established the reputation of the Centre, rapidly building its profile and its community of academics, focusing on original research of international standard as a basis for wider engagement. An annual constitutional law conference, designed to bring together people from government, the profession, the judiciary and academia, was successful from its initial outing in 2002 and, for many people in the field, it has become a must attend event. In reflecting on the aspirations he had in these early years, George wrote:

In establishing the Centre I sought to institute projects around questions of public law that were of significance to national and local debates about Australia’s future. This involved as the first and most important step building a body of original research of international standard.

Once done, this enabled the Centre to play a leading role in policy debates through parliamentary and other inquiries, but also via contributions through the media. Our philosophy was based upon the idea that Australians deserve access to credible information about how their system of government works, and that universities have a responsibility not just to produce first-rate scholarship, but to communicate this to the broader community. I also sought to locate the Centre as a meeting point for the wide range of people interested in public law, including those from government, the judiciary and profession.

Establishing the Centre took enormous effort by a range of people. If I was to point to my most significant achievement as Director, it lay in having the good fortune to attract a group of new scholars interested in public law and public policy who themselves were on the cusp of great things. Their efforts as part of our team built a body of exceptional research that was well communicated in academic and wider circles. They also created a vibrant and inclusive culture that over time has been built upon by further generations of scholars

George’s successor as Centre Director, Andrew Lynch (2008-2013), took the Centre from strength to strength. The number of academic staff and PhD students associated with the Centre grew significantly. Andrew focused on three main areas in particular international linkages and reputation; postgraduate student experience; and collaborative and interdisciplinary links with other Australian academic centres and public organisations. After a transitional period, in which Acting Director Rosalind Dixon (2013-2014) provided energetic intellectual leadership for the Centre, Sean Brennan commenced his term as Centre Director in March 2014. From one staff member in 2001 the Centre has grown incrementally and currently has 14 academic members and 12 associated PhD students.