Bicentenary of the Supreme Court of NSW

John Bigge, 1819 [State Library of New South Wales].

In February 1823, a report by John Thomas Bigge into judicial affairs in NSW was tabled in the House of Commons. It led to the Third Charter of Justice and the establishment of the current Supreme Court, which first sat on 17 May 1824,  as well as the first steps towards representative government in the Australian colonies. His enduring legacy is an independent, respected court system that upholds and promotes the rule of law.

In 2023-24 the Supreme Court of NSW, along with the Legislative Council, will host a program of events to mark 200 years since the New South Wales Act was passed by the Westminster Parliament in October 1823. There will be ceremonial sittings, public lectures, book launches and open days, some held in conjunction with the Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History.

The first of these will be on Tuesday, 28 March 2023 at 5.00pm when the Hon Andrew Bell, Chief Justice of New South Wales, will deliver a paper entitled ‘On classic ground’: Martin’s monument and civilizational yearnings in colonial New South Wales’, which was originally delivered as the Sir James Martin Oration to the Lysicrates Foundation.  The lecture will be held in the Banco Court, on Level 13 of the Law Courts Building in Queens Square at 5.30 pm. The lecture is named in honour of Sir James Martin, the towering historical figure who rose to become Premier, Attorney General and, later, the fourth Chief Justice of New South Wales.  Also at the event will be Chief Justice Allsop of the Federal Court, who will present prizes to the winners and commended entries in the Forbes Society’s 2022 Australian Legal History Essay Competition.

Members of the RAHS are very welcome to attend.

Stay informed of all upcoming events through the RAHS Newsletter, and the Supreme Court website and Twitter account (@NSWSupCt). Alternatively, contact Chris Winslow, Media Manager,

Published in the RAHS eNewsletter 23 February 2023