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Tributes flow for legal giant David Jackson KC

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The former national president of the Order of Malta David Jackson KC was a gifted barrister and former federal court judge. Photo: Freepik
The former national president of the Order of Malta David Jackson KC was a gifted barrister and former federal court judge. Photo: Freepik

Tributes are flowing in from across the Catholic community following the death of the highly respected former national president of the Order of Malta, gifted barrister and former federal court judge, David Jackson KC.

Mr Jackson, who recently celebrated his 82nd birthday, served as national president of the Order of Malta from 1984 to 1987, drawing upon his great legal expertise to guide the order through constitutional changes.

He was respected across the Catholic Church for his legal counsel to many Catholic bodies including the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

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The Order of Malta’s current national president, James Douglas, said Mr Jackson was a selfless contributor to the church over many decades, well after he left the president’s position.

“He continued to contribute to our work all his life and was a much loved and valued advisor, particularly from my point of view in matters related to constitutional changes to the Order, but also as an astute and informed observer of our place in the life of the church in Australia and the world,” he said.

Honoured with a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to the legal profession, the president of the Australian Bar Association Peter Dunning said Mr Jackson was a great inspiration to generations of barristers.

“This marks the passing of a pre-eminent silk of nearly half a century and the finest constitutional and High Court barrister of a generation, arguably since Federation,” he said.

“David was an extraordinary advocate. The many who had the privilege of working directly with—or against—him are better judges and barristers for it.”

Australia’s former ambassador to the Vatican, John McCarthy KC, worked as a junior barrister under Mr Jackson and said he was a distinguished lawyer with a deep Catholic faith.

Former federal court judge and national president of the Order of Malta, David Jackson KC, was the pre-eminent constitutional lawyer of his generation. Photo: Supplied
Former federal court judge and national president of the Order of Malta, David Jackson KC, was the pre-eminent constitutional lawyer of his generation. Photo: Supplied

“He will be remembered as one of the finest lawyers of his time who was also a very serious Catholic who was prepared to work for and defend the causes dear to the church, including on abortion,” he told The Catholic Weekly.

“He was always available for advice on Australian law and the Catholic Church and was certainly amongst the most in-demand senior counsel of his generation for High Court and related cases.”

Sydney barrister Sophie York said as a newcomer to the legal profession in the mid 1990s, David Jackson was a great personal inspiration to her, especially in the way he lived out his Catholic faith.

“He was a formidable figure, but he also had a sweet gentleness to him. I believe faith gives you a certain humility and gratitude for your gifts, rather than a pomposity about your gifts and that was certainly the way David lived his life,” Ms York said.

“He realised there were causes worth fighting for, including pro-life matters and so he did pro-bono work, but never sought any accolades for it,” she added.

“When I came to the Bar in the mid 1990s, there were only four women barristers in my readership group out of a group of 40 people and I was reading on a floor that produced legal giants such as Murray Gleeson and Sir Laurence Street.

“It was in some ways quite terrifying, but David Jackson was such a gentleman and he always made me feel very welcome and at ease,” Ms York explained.

“He will always be remembered as brilliant advocate, gifted in persuasion, but also as someone with a quiet integrity, always prepared to go the extra mile for what he believed in.”

Mr Jackson’s funeral was held at St Mary’s Cathedral on Thursday 25 May. He is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Monica, their three daughters, Catherine, Dominique and Louise and their four grandchildren.

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