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|Judge of the District Court of New South Wales|
Robert William Bellear
17 April 1944
|Died||15 March 2005 60) (aged|
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
|Alma mater||UNSW (LLB 1978)|
Robert William "Bob" Bellear (17 June 1944 – 15 March 2005) was an Australian social activist, lawyer and judge who was the first Aboriginal Australian judge. Bellear served as a judge of the District Court of New South Wales from 1996 until his death in 2005.
Aboriginal Australians are the various indigenous peoples of the Australian mainland, Tasmania, and often the Tiwi Islands. This group contains many distinct peoples that have developed across Australia for over 50,000 years. These peoples have a broadly shared, though complex, genetic history, but it is only in the last two hundred years that they have been defined and started to self identify as a single group. The definition of the term "Aboriginal" has changed over time and place, with the importance of family lineage, self identification and community acceptance all being of varying importance. In the past, Aboriginal Australians lived over large sections of the continental shelf and were isolated on many of the smaller offshore islands when the land was inundated at the start of the inter-glacial. However, they are considered distinct from the Torres Strait Islander people, despite extensive cultural exchange.
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and, typically, in an open court. The judge hears all the witnesses and any other evidence presented by the barristers or solicitors of the case, assesses the credibility and arguments of the parties, and then issues a ruling on the matter at hand based on his or her interpretation of the law and his or her own personal judgment. In some jurisdictions, the judge's powers may be shared with a jury. In inquisitorial systems of criminal investigation, a judge might also be an examining magistrate.
The District Court of New South Wales is the intermediate court in the judicial hierarchy of the Australian state of New South Wales. It is a trial court and has an appellate jurisdiction. In addition, the Judges of the Court preside over a range of tribunals. In its criminal jurisdiction, the Court may deal with all serious criminal offences except murder, treason and piracy. The Court's civil jurisdiction is generally limited to claims less than A$750,000.
Bellear was born in the far north-east of New South Wales, and grew up near the town of Mullumbimby. His grandfather was a Ni-Vanuatu man who was blackbirded to Australia to work on a sugar plantation, and his grandmother was an Aboriginal Australian woman from Minjerribah (also known as Stradbroke Island) in Queensland. His other grandfather had been blackbirded from the Solomon Islands. Bellear was one of nine children.
New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In December 2018, the population of New South Wales was over 8 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.1 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen.
Vanuatu, officially the Republic of Vanuatu, is a Pacific island country located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is 1,750 kilometres (1,090 mi) east of northern Australia, 540 kilometres (340 mi) northeast of New Caledonia, east of New Guinea, southeast of the Solomon Islands, and west of Fiji.
Blackbirding involves the coercion of people through deception and/or kidnapping to work as unpaid or poorly paid labourers in countries distant to their native land. The term has been most commonly applied to the large-scale taking of people indigenous to the numerous islands in the Pacific Ocean during the 19th and 20th centuries. These blackbirded people were called Kanakas or South Sea Islanders. The owners, captains and crew of the ships involved in the acquisition of these labourers were termed blackbirders. The demand for this kind of cheap labour principally came from European colonists in New South Wales, Peru, Queensland, Samoa, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii, Mexico and Guatemala. Labouring on sugarcane, cotton and coffee plantations in these lands was the main usage of blackbirded labour but they were also exploited in other industries.
He left school early, but could not get a job, a fact which Bellear often attributed to racism. Instead, he joined the Royal Australian Navy, where he was trained in mechanical engineering and clearance diving. He was a successful rugby union player for the Navy's representative side. He was the first Indigenous person to achieve the rank of petty officer. Bellear left the Navy in 1968, with several qualifications, including masonry and fitting and turning. He was then able to easily find a job.
Racism is the belief in the superiority of one race over another. It may also mean prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against other people because they are of a different race or ethnicity. Modern variants of racism are often based in social perceptions of biological differences between peoples. These views can take the form of social actions, practices or beliefs, or political systems in which different races are ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other, based on presumed shared inheritable traits, abilities, or qualities.
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force, called the Commonwealth Naval Forces. Originally intended for local defence, the navy was granted the title of 'Royal Australian Navy' in 1911, and became increasingly responsible for defence of the region.
Mechanical engineering is the discipline that applies engineering, physics, engineering mathematics, and materials science principles to design, analyze, manufacture, and maintain mechanical systems. It is one of the oldest and broadest of the engineering disciplines.
For some time Bellear lived in Redfern with his wife Kaye Williams, whom he had met while in the Navy. The suburb had a substantial Aboriginal population at the time. Bellear established the Aboriginal Housing Corporation there in 1972, and throughout the 1970s was a director of both the Aboriginal Medical Service and the Aboriginal Legal Service. Bellear was the leader of a campaign to prevent landlords in Redfern from evicting Aboriginal tenants, and his work led to the Whitlam government transferring ownership of The Block to the Aboriginal Housing Corporation.
Redfern is an inner-city suburb of Sydney located 3 kilometres south of the Sydney central business district and is part of the local government area of the City of Sydney. Strawberry Hills is a locality on the border with Surry Hills. The area experienced the process of gentrification in recent years.
The Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) was established in Redfern from 1971. It was the first Aboriginal community controlled health service in Australia, and it is now a key Indigenous community organisation, from which most Aboriginal medical services around the State of New South Wales have stemmed. The AMS pioneered the concept of Aboriginal community-controlled health care, and as part of its broader objectives, the AMS aims to improve the health standards in Aboriginal communities across Australia
The Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) is an organisation providing legal assistance to Aboriginal Australians in New South Wales (NSW) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The ALS was the first operation of its kind in Australia. It began in 1970 with Graham McDonald and other volunteers providing free legal advice and representation to Aboriginal people in inner-Sydney from a shopfront in Redfern.
Bellear would regularly see the patterns of intimidation and harassment which the New South Wales Police practised against the Aboriginal community in Redfern.
Intimidation is intentional behavior that "would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities" to fear injury or harm. It is not necessary to prove that the behavior was so violent as to cause mean terror or that the victim was actually frightened.
Harassment covers a wide range of behaviors of an offensive nature. It is commonly understood as behavior that demeans, humiliates or embarrasses a person, and it is characteristically identified by its unlikelihood in terms of social and moral reasonableness. In the legal sense, these are behaviors that appear to be disturbing, upsetting or threatening. They evolve from discriminatory grounds, and have an effect of nullifying or impairing a person from benefiting their rights. When these behaviors become repetitive, they are defined as bullying.
In 1972, Bellear decided that he would study law. He completed his Higher School Certificate studies at Sydney Technical College, and entered a law course at the University of New South Wales. He became only the second Indigenous person to graduate from that university (after Pat O'Shane) when he graduated in 1978. He was admitted to the New South Wales Bar in 1979. As a barrister, he represented many Aboriginal people in criminal trials, and was often instructed by the Aboriginal Legal Service. In 1987 Bellear was appointed as an assisting counsel to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
The Higher School Certificate (HSC) is the credential awarded to secondary school students who successfully complete senior high school level studies in New South Wales, Australia. It was first introduced in 1967, with the last major revision coming into effect in 2019. It is currently developed and managed by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA).
The Sydney Technical College, now known as the TAFE New South Wales Sydney Institute, is a technical school established in 1878, that superseded the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts. The college is one of Australia's oldest technical education institutions.
The University of New South Wales is an Australian public research university located in the Sydney suburb of Kensington. Out of all Australian universities, UNSW has the highest median ATAR and attracts the highest number of top 500 students. Established in 1949, it is ranked 4th in Australia, 43rd in the world according to the 2020 QS World University Rankings. The university comprises nine faculties, through which it offers bachelor, master and doctoral degrees. The main campus is located on a 38-hectare (94-acre) site in the Sydney suburb of Kensington, 7 km from the Sydney central business district. The creative arts faculty, UNSW Art & Design, is located in Paddington, UNSW Canberra is located at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra and sub-campuses are located in the Sydney CBD, the suburbs of Randwick and Coogee. Research stations are located throughout the state of New South Wales. UNSW is one of the founding members of the Group of Eight, a coalition of Australian research-intensive universities, and of Universitas 21, a global network of research universities. It has international exchange and research partnerships with over 200 universities around the world.
In 1993 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws by Macquarie University. On 17 May 1996, Bellear was appointed a judge of the District Court of New South Wales, the first Indigenous person to be appointed to any court in Australia. He served as a judge until his death.During this time he mentored young Indigenous lawyers, and encouraged students to attend his courtroom. He did not try to remain in Sydney, instead preferring the rural circuit, where he could visit Aboriginal communities in regional centres, and bring students into his courtroom.
In his later life, Bellear was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, contracted during his time with the Royal Australian Navy, when as an apprentice engineer he was exposed to asbestos fibers. Bellear died at his home on 15 March 2005, wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt. He was survived by his wife, two children Joanne and Kali (a third son, Malu died in his early twenties in 1996) and four grandchildren. The Government of New South Wales granted Bellear a state funeral, held at the Sydney Town Hall. It was attended by about 2000 guests, including Governor of New South Wales Marie Bashir and former Chief Justice of New South Wales Laurence Street.
Major General Lachlan Macquarie, CB was a British Army officer and colonial administrator from Scotland. Macquarie served as the fifth and last autocratic Governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821, and had a leading role in the social, economic and architectural development of the colony. He is considered by historians to have had a crucial influence on the transition of New South Wales from a penal colony to a free settlement and therefore to have played a major role in the shaping of Australian society in the early nineteenth century. In 1816 Macquarie gave orders that led to the Appin Massacre of Gundungurra and Dharawal people.
Koori is a demonym for Indigenous Australians from the approximate region of New South Wales and Victoria. For some people and organisations, the use of indigenous language regional terms is an expression of pride in their heritage.
The Block is a colloquial but universally applied name given to a block of housing in Redfern, Sydney. Houses on The Block were purchased over a period of 30 years by the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) for use as a project in Aboriginal-managed housing.
The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) (1987–1991) was a Royal Commission appointed by the Australian Government in October 1987 to study and report upon the underlying social, cultural and legal issues behind the deaths in custody of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, in the light of the high level of such deaths.
Gary Edward Foley is an Australian Aboriginal Gumbainggir activist, academic, writer and actor. He is best known for his role in establishing the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra in 1972 and for establishing an Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern in the 1970s. He also co-wrote and acted in the first indigenous Australian stage production, Basically Black.
Gordon Jacob Samuels, was a British-Australian lawyer, judge and the Governor of New South Wales from 1996 to 2001.
Larissa Yasmin Behrendt is a Eualeyai/Kamillaroi woman, Aboriginal Australian legal academic plus writer. She is currently a Professor of Indigenous Research and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Technology Sydney.
Faith Bandler was an Australian civil rights activist of South Sea Islander and Scottish-Indian heritage. She was a campaigner for the rights of indigenous Australians and South Sea Islanders. Bandler was best known for her leadership in the campaign for the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal Australians.
Francis John Walker, QC was an Australian politician and judge. He was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly representing Georges River between 1970 and 1988 and subsequently a member of the Australian House of Representatives representing Robertson between 1990 and 1996, both for the Australian Labor Party. During his parliamentary careers, Walker held a range of ministerial responsibilities. He was the first New South Wales Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and was responsible for some of the first legislation that recognized the obligation to financially compensate indigenous Australians for the loss of their land. He has been given credit for achieving one of the first big breakthroughs in the protection of Australia's natural environment, the saving of the Terania Creek rainforest.
Commodore Sir Laurence Whistler Street, AC, KCMG, KStJ, QC was an Australian jurist; formerly the fourteenth and second youngest Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales. He was the third consecutive generation of his family to have served New South Wales in these offices; the only such case in Australian history.
Lisa (Marie) Bellear was an Indigenous Australian poet, photographer, activist, spokeswoman, dramatist, comedian and broadcaster. She was a Goernpil woman of the Noonuccal people of Minjerribah, Queensland. Her uncles were Bob Bellear, Australia's first Indigenous judge, and Sol Bellear who helped to found the Aboriginal Housing Corporation in Redfern in 1972.
Virginia Margaret Bell is the senior puisne Justice of the High Court of Australia, the highest court in the Australian court hierarchy. She was sworn in on 3 February 2009.
The Constitutional history of Australia began with the first white settlement in Sydney in 1788 and has undergone numerous constitutional changes since.
Bryan Alan Beaumont AO was a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia from May 1983 until February 2005. He also held positions in the legal systems of Pacific countries including Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu.
The Street family is a prominent Australian legal, political and military family. The Streets are the only dynasty in Australian history with three consecutive vice-regal appointments to their name. Sir Philip Whistler Street, his son Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Kenneth Whistler Street, and grandson Commodore Sir Laurence Whistler Street each attained the offices of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales. Notable otherwise are Brigadier Geoffrey Austin Street, who died in office as Minister of Defence during World War II, his son Anthony Austin Street, who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Fraser Government, and the women's and aboriginal rights advocate Lady "Red Jessie" Street.
The Quandamooka people are an Aboriginal Australian group that live around Moreton Bay in Southeastern Queensland. They are composed of three distinct tribes, the Nunukul, the Goenpul and the Ngugi, and they live primarily on Moreton and North Stradbroke Islands, that form the eastern side of the bay. Many of them were pushed out of their lands when the English colonial government established a penal colony near there in 1824. Each group has its own language. A number of local food sources are utilised by the tribes.
Jenny Munro is an Australian Wiradjuri elder and a prominent activist for the rights of Indigenous Australians. She has been at the forefront of the fight for Aboriginal housing at The Block in Sydney, and started the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy. She is sister of the late Aboriginal activist, Isabel Coe.
Solomon David Bellear was an Aboriginal Australian public figure.
Matthew Myers is a Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and an Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales. In February 2017 he was appointed as an Australian Law Reform Commission Commissioner to lead the inquiry into Incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Judge Myers is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.