Skip to main content

Sir Owen Dixon’s Legacy





Publication Date




Page Extent


AUD $150.00 gst included

Sir Owen Dixon is the most renowned jurist Australia has ever produced. His lasting significance stems not only from a mastery of the technique of the common law, but from his involvement in many of the most important decisions in Australia’s legal history. During the course of his long tenure on the High Court of Australia, Dixon oversaw the development of virtually every branch of the law. This volume contributes to the understanding of Dixon’s jurisprudence, his judicial method and present-day significance. It ranges widely over the various branches of the law which were enriched by his contributions. The contributors include leading scholars and jurists from across Australia.

The essays which comprise the volume are arranged in three sections. The first takes up a number of fundamental questions going to the character of Dixon’s judicial philosophy. Space is devoted to an assessment of the nature and merits of ‘legalism’, as well as a study of Dixon’s views of the Privy Council. The second section is concerned with his contributions to public law, including his decisions in respect of the criminal law. The third section is concerned with his judgments in private law, including his influence on real property, equity, contract and tort.

Foreword by The Hon Susan Kiefel AC 
Table of Cases
Table of Statutes

            John Eldridge and Timothy Pilkington


1. Sir Owen Dixon and the Common Law Method
            Ruth C A Higgins
2. Parker v The Queen and Dixon’s Diminishing Confidence in the Privy Council
            Tanya Josev


3. Fashioning the Keystone of the Federal Structure: Dixon’s Influence on Section 109 of the Constitution
            Mark Leeming
4. Sir Owen Dixon and the Concept of ‘Nationhood’ as a Source of Commonwealth Power
            Peter Gerangelos
5. Protecting Judicial Independence and the Rule of Law: Dixon’s Chapter III Legacy
            Matthew Stubbs
6. An Enduring Influence: Sir Owen Dixon’s Contribution to Administrative Law
            Neil Williams and Claire Palmer
7. Sir Owen Dixon on Criminal Law and the Law of Evidence
            Tim James-Matthews


8. Sir Owen Dixon’s Insight into the Law of Real Property
            Arthur R Emmett
9. Advance Payments and the Border of Contract and Restitution: McDonald v Dennys Lascelles Revisited
            Timothy Pilkington
10. Sir Owen Dixon and Yerkey v Jones: Considering the Feminist Implications of Strict and Complete Legalism
            Radhika Chaudhri
11. Sir Owen Dixon and the Law of Contract
            John Eldridge
12. Dixon’s Tort Judgments: Master Craftsman or Competent Technician?
            Mark Lunney
13. Sir Owen Dixon’s Contribution to Australian Defamation Jurisprudence
            David Rolph


There can be little doubt of Sir Owen Dixon’s legacy upon the law in this country. As a celebrated jurist, his influence was vast and extended to virtually every branch of the law. His genius, accompanied by his long tenure on the High Court, permitted his contribution to some of Australia’s most significant decisions. The express purpose of this collection of essays is to contribute to a deeper appreciation and understanding of that legacy.
         In doing so, the contributors to this text do not focus only on Dixon’s influence, but add their own insights to the topics to which he made particular contribution. For example, the essays commence with a careful analysis of Dixon’s technique of common law reasoning of “strict and complete legalism”, including consideration of whether such a technique is indeed well-fitted to decision-making in the common law. Another essay analyses the enduring influence of the Dixon Court on key principles in the law of contract, despite the vast development in the common law and significant statutory encroachment in that area since the time of the Dixon Court.
         The text is an enjoyable and worthy read for all aspiring and practising lawyers.

Queensland Law Reporter – 11 October 2019 – [2019] 40 QLR

Sir Owen Dixon’s Legacy is a formidable collection. John Eldridge and Timothy
Pilkington have succeeded in collating a text which contributes not only to
our understanding of Dixon and his legacy but also more generally to some
particular areas of legal doctrine, to legal theory, and to narratives of legal

Stephen Puttick, Monash University Law Review, Volume 45, No.3

Anyone interested in Australian law will learn a lot from these two books.

John Gava, Adelaide Law Review (2020) 41(2)

In rekindling interest in the career of one of Australia’s greatest jurists, these two books remind us of Dixon’s skill in navigating the rule of law. As such, they are a valuable resource for judges, and for legal scholars. Dixon’s methods have application across the common law world. The vitality of legal scholarship is enhanced by this kind of re-examination.

Andrew Clarke, The Modern Law Review, (2021) 84(1)

The legacy of Sir Owen Dixon is so comprehensive as to resist capture in a short volume. But, as indicated above, this collection gives rewarding insights into various aspects of his work and its enduring interest and value.

Prof the Hon WM C Gummow AC QC, Australian Law Journal (2020) 94

You may also like…