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Minogue, Sir John Patrick (1909–1989)

by Peter Ryan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Sir John Patrick Minogue (1909-1989), judge, was born on 15 September 1909 at Seymour, Victoria, son of Victorian-born parents John Patrick Minogue, solicitor, and his wife Emma Mary, née Darcy. John was educated in Melbourne at St Kevin’s College and the University of Melbourne (LL.B, 1935). Completion of his degree was delayed by full-time clerical employment, but this was no hardship as he enjoyed the lighter side of student life, such as rowing and billiards, while also serving with the Melbourne University Rifles (lieutenant 1934). Admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria on 3 May 1937, he practised as a solicitor at Bendigo. On 17 March 1938 at St Patrick’s Cathedral he married Mary Alicia O’Farrell, a typist.

Beginning full-time service in the Militia on 1 May 1941, and continuing in the Australian Imperial Force from August 1942, Minogue performed staff duties throughout World War II. As liaison officer (1942-43) at New Guinea Force headquarters, he distinguished himself in October 1942 by footslogging along the Kokoda Track to assess the desperate struggle against the Japanese. On the 20th, when he reached the front line, he was (as a lieutenant colonel) the most senior staff officer to have made such a visit. He was mentioned in despatches for his work. As a member of the Australian Military Mission to Washington (1945-46), his observance of the eccentricities of Australia’s foreign minister H. V. Evatt supplied material for later pungent, but not indiscreet, stories. Relinquishing his AIF appointment in May 1946, Minogue resumed legal practice and was appointed QC on 27 November 1957. He served on the Victorian Bar Council in 1958-62.

In 1962 Minogue was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. He was hand-picked by the minister for territories, (Sir) Paul Hasluck, who was determined that the emerging nation should have a strong and independent judiciary. Displaying great industry and ingenuity, Minogue was heedless of danger and discomfort in travelling on circuit to the remotest areas. The court might convene under a roof of rough thatching, but as chief justice (1970-74) Minogue was always robed in red beneath a full-bottomed wig. Taking an abiding interest in the fledgling University of Papua and New Guinea (pro-chancellor, 1972-74), he was a mentor to its law faculty and was awarded an honorary LL.D (1974).

Returning to Melbourne Minogue was knighted in 1976 and the following year appointed Victorian Law Reform Commissioner. His many well-framed recommendations, although shrewdly informed by his experience on the bench, never lost sight of compassion and humanity. On retirement in 1982 he expressed disappointment that neither politicians nor the community showed enthusiasm for legal reform.

A solidly built and handsome man of scrupulous character, Minogue had a gift for sociability, and served as a vice-president (1982-89) of the Victorian branch of the English Speaking Union, president (1982-86) of the University of Melbourne Graduates Union, and moot-master in his old faculty of law. He inherited the family property, Marengo Vale, Seymour. Even in Collins Street his tweeds somehow suggested the country where much of his heart still lay. Predeceased by four months by his wife, and childless, Sir John Minogue died on 19 September 1989 at Toorak and was cremated with Catholic rites. His estate was sworn for probate at $1 653 813, and his will benefited many charities, including the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, which received $200 000. A portrait by Kurt Pfund is held by the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Dow (ed), More Memories of Melbourne University (1985)
  • Papua-New Guinea Post-Courier, 19 Apr 1974, p 4
  • Age (Melbourne), 23 Jan 1982, p 3, 20 Sept 1989, p 18
  • Melbourne Graduate, Nov 1989, p 2
  • Minogue papers (University of Melbourne Archives)
  • personal knowledge.

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Citation details

Peter Ryan, 'Minogue, Sir John Patrick (1909–1989)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 21 March 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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