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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Nevile, Roy Vivian (1904–1970)

by Sally Cawley

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Roy Vivian Nevile (1904-1970), judge, was born on 6 April 1904 at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, son of Vivian Hill Nevile, a civil servant from New South Wales, and his Victorian-born wife Emily Victoria, née Gibbons. Roy was educated at Perth Modern School (on a scholarship) and at the University of Western Australia (B.A., 1924; LL.B., 1930). He briefly taught at the High School, Perth, before being articled to Wallace Unmack.

In 1927 'Spud' Nevile enrolled in the university's new law school. He was founding president (1928) of the Blackstone Society for law students and president (1930) of the Guild of Undergraduates. On 18 March 1930 he was admitted to the Bar. At the Methodist Church, Subiaco, on 31 August 1931 he married Jessie Eversley Cheffins, a 26-year-old schoolteacher. A scholarly man, with a commitment to social causes and a prodigious capacity for work, Nevile was involved in a wide range of activities. He lectured part time in adult-education courses and became a partner (by 1934) in the law firm, Olney, Gibson & Nevile. A board-member (1930-42) of the State branch of the Australian Natives' Association, he stood unsuccessfully in 1939 for the Legislative Assembly seat of West Perth as the Australian Labor Party candidate.

On 15 August 1942 Nevile was commissioned in the Royal Australian Air Force. He served as an intelligence officer in Melbourne, in Darwin and at Townsville, Queensland, and was demobilized on 23 November 1945 with the rank of flight lieutenant. That month he was appointed assistant crown solicitor in Western Australia's Crown Law Department. He moved to the Attorney-General's Department in June 1947 and took silk in December 1954. In January 1955 he was gazetted judge of the Supreme Court and president of the Court of Arbitration. His term at the arbitration court coincided with volatile industrial activity. On occasions, he was vehemently criticized by trade unionists, employers and the government.

In 1963 the Brand ministry announced its intention to replace the court with a lay tribunal, aiming to bring the system more into line with other States. The Trades and Labor Council attacked the decision on numerous grounds and perceived that its real purpose was to remove Nevile. In October the T.L.C. began a campaign of industrial action. An intense 18-hour debate took place in parliament over three days before the bill reached its second reading. After a further 28 hours of debate, the bill was finally carried amid slow handclapping and a walk-out by some Opposition members. Meanwhile, the T.L.C. called a six-hour general stoppage for 20 November. Nevile warned workers of possible dismissals resulting from strike action. Sackings did occur, and the protests petered out.

Nevile remained a member of the Supreme Court. In 1970 he finished hearing a notorious forgery case against Salvatore Franchina, relating to the Perth City Council elections in the previous year. The judge belonged to the Weld Club, and enjoyed surfing and playing tennis. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he died suddenly of myocardial infarction on 23 September 1970 at Nedlands and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • F. Alexander, Campus at Crawley (Melb, 1963)
  • Australian Law Journal, 15 Sept 1955
  • Western Australian Industrial Gazette, 40-43, 1960-63
  • Bulletin, 30 Nov 1963
  • West Australian, 10 Dec 1954, 25 Oct, 23, 25, 27 Nov 1963, 24 Sept 1970
  • private information.

Citation details

Sally Cawley, 'Nevile, Roy Vivian (1904–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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