Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Yuill, Gordon John Ford (1921–1990)

by Terry Higgins

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

Gordon John Ford Yuill (1921–1990), judge, was born on 12 April 1921 at West End, Brisbane, elder son of South Australian-born John Ford Yuill, clerk, and his wife Eileen Jane Mary, née Healion, born in Brisbane. Educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore), North Sydney, Gordon was a prefect in 1938 and played for the rugby second XV. He worked as a law clerk and studied part time at the University of Sydney.

Having attained the ranks of warrant officer in the school cadets and corporal in the Sydney University Regiment, Yuill enlisted on 26 May 1941 as a gunner in the Australian Imperial Force. He served with the 2/1st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment in the Middle East (1941-42) and briefly in the Netherlands East Indies (February 1942) before returning to Australia and transferring to the 2/1st Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, Airborne. Assessed as being ‘required for employment in an essential occupation’, he was discharged from the AIF on 6 January 1945.

Yuill was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 23 May 1947. He practised as a private solicitor with C. W. Davies and R. G. Bailey, Canberra. In 1948 he joined the Commonwealth Public Service and in March next year was appointed a legal officer in the Attorney-General’s Department. After the introduction of the legislation that became the Matrimonial Causes Act (1959) he was in charge of the department’s family law work. On 25 May 1951 at the Shore chapel he married Helen Marjorie Wolf, née Hughes, an interior decorator and a divorcee. They divorced in 1967. On 27 April 1968 at Bowral, New South Wales, he married Joan Louise Gentle, née Wright, a widow.

Promoted in January 1966 to senior assistant-secretary of the department’s executive branch, Yuill was awarded in 1970 a United Nations human rights fellowship to study and report on family law reforms, particularly on developments in North American courts. He was closely involved in the drafting and development of the Family Law Act 1975. As an inaugural member (1976-77) of the Family Law Council, he advised the attorney-general on related legislation.

In April 1977 Yuill was appointed, with life tenure, a judge of the Family Court of Australia in the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. Six ft 1 in. (185 cm) tall with dark hair and brown eyes, he enjoyed gardening and was a member of the Commonwealth Club and of Legacy. Survived by his wife and stepson, he died of complications following nephrectomy on 10 February 1990 at Deakin, Canberra, and was cremated. He was highly respected by the legal profession and his colleagues. The deputy chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory, Bernard Collaery, described him as ‘humane, yet august’. In 2011 the Yuill Scholarship to support the International Court of Justice traineeship program was established at the Australian National University’s College of Law.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Assembly, Australian Capital Territory), 15 Feb 1990, p 169
  • Family Law Council, Annual Report, 1996-97
  • Canberra Times, 11 Apr 1977, p 3, 13 Feb 1990, p 4
  • B883, item NX20487 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

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Citation details

Terry Higgins, 'Yuill, Gordon John Ford (1921–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/yuill-gordon-john-ford-15897/text27098, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 27 May 2019.

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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