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Richard Darrell Lumb (1934–1997)

by Paul Sayer

This article was published online in 2023

Richard Lumb, 1990s

Richard Lumb, 1990s

University of Queensland Archives, UQA S916 file 1.1

Richard Darrell Lumb (1934–1997), constitutional lawyer and professor of law, was born on 1 May 1934 in Melbourne, younger of two children of Victorian-born parents Ely Richard Parry Lumb, clerk, and his wife Eileen, née Thomson. After attending Xavier Preparatory School (1944–46) and Xavier College (1947–50), Darrell entered the University of Melbourne (LLB Hons, 1955; LLM Hons, 1956). He won the H. B. Higgins exhibition in Greek in his first year, shared the Jessie Leggatt scholarship in property law in his second, and shared the Supreme Court exhibition in evidence law in his third. Graduating at the age of twenty, he tutored in two subjects in 1955 and 1956. Later in 1956 he proceeded to England on an Archbishop Mannix travelling scholarship and entered Oriel College, Oxford (DPhil, 1958). His doctoral thesis was entitled ‘Natural Law and Positive Law: The Doctrines of Aquinas and Suarez Compared with Later Theories.’

In 1958 Lumb was appointed as a lecturer in the University of Queensland’s department (later T. C. Beirne school) of law. On 30 January 1960 in Melbourne he married Moira Agnes Monahan, a teacher, who, later in life, assessed student teachers in secondary school placements for the university’s education department. He took five months’ leave in August 1960 to become associate to Justice Sir Edward McTiernan of the High Court of Australia; Lumb would be admitted (1964) as a barrister and solicitor of that court. In 1963 he was promoted to senior lecturer and in 1967 to reader, and in 1980 he was appointed to a personal chair. His scholarly and administrative responsibilities included co-editing the University of Queensland Law Journal (1964–68) and heading the law department (1974–75 and 1984–85).

Lumb’s primary interest was Australian constitutional law. The Constitutions of the Australian States (1963), his first book, went through five editions and became the standard text on the subject. His monumental work, however, was The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, Annotated (1974), which he co-authored with Kevin Ryan. This volume, too, went through five editions and became an important reference work and student textbook. His final book was Australian Constitutionalism (1983). He also published extensively on legal theory and on international law, particularly the law of the sea. Early in his tenure at the university, he had introduced undergraduate students of constitutional law to the law of the sea. The sources were his pamphlet The Maritime Boundaries of Queensland and New South Wales (1964) and his book The Law of the Sea and Australian Off-shore Areas (1966 and 1978). Later, he lectured on the law of the sea as his contribution to the international law course.

Outside the academy, Lumb advised governments on legal matters; in 1973, for example, he was appointed, with three other lawyers, to assist the Queensland government in its relations with the Commonwealth. He also spoke to journalists and wrote letters to the press about contemporary political and legal controversies. In 1966 he had expressed support for Australia’s participation in the Vietnam War, and in 1975 he declared that the governor-general, Sir John Kerr, had acted correctly in dismissing the Whitlam government. Seeing himself as a ‘federalist’ (Moens and Trone 2000, 3) in his understanding of Australian constitutional law, he deplored the majority decision of the High Court in Commonwealth v. Tasmania (`Tasmanian Dam Case’), 1983, arguing that it interpreted the Commonwealth’s external affairs power too widely, and gave the Federal government undue authority to override the traditional rights of the States. A related objection, in his view, was that the decision appeared to confer on the Federal government ‘carte blanche to implement international treaties containing values that might be antipathetic to many Australians’ (Trinca and Cadzow 1983, 9).

Consistent with his deep Catholic faith and conservative outlook, Lumb was a patron of B. A. Santamaria’s Australian Family Association and a member of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy. He acted as legal adviser of the Brisbane Consumers’ Group and served on its committee. For recreation, he was a keen tennis player and an avid cricket follower, and he enjoyed his family’s holidays at the beach as well as their annual trips by train or car to Melbourne to visit relatives. In 1971 his wife and children had accompanied him on his sabbatical to the University of Oxford, travelling five weeks each way by sea. He was devoted to his family and had a close relationship with his sister, Alison, who lived in Perth. Colleagues and students found him to be kindly, unassuming, and friendly. Diagnosed with leukaemia in 1980, he later suffered from heart disease, forcing him to take leave from 1995. He died on 3 February 1997 in South Brisbane and was buried in Nudgee cemetery. His wife, and their two sons and one daughter survived him; all three children followed their father into the law.

Research edited by Darryl Bennet

Select Bibliography

  • Lumb, R. D. Australian Constitutionalism. Sydney: Butterworths, 1983
  • Lumb, R. D. The Constitutions of the Australian States. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1963
  • Lumb, R. D. The Law of the Sea and Australian Off-shore Areas. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1966
  • Lumb, R. D. The Maritime Boundaries of Queensland and New South Wales. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1964
  • Lumb, R. D., and Kevin Ryan. The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, Annotated. Sydney: Butterworths, 1974
  • Lumb, Stephen. Personal communication
  • Moens, Gabriël, and John Trone. ‘The Contribution of Professor Richard Darrell Lumb to the T C Beirne School of Law.’ In Constitutional and International Law Perspectives, edited by Gabriël A. Moens, 1–10. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 2000
  • Personal knowledge of ADB subject
  • Trinca, Helen, and Jane Cadzow. `Federal System “Completely Disrupted.”’ Weekend Australian, 2–3 July 1983, 9

Additional Resources

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Citation details

Paul Sayer, 'Lumb, Richard Darrell (1934–1997)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2023, accessed online 20 May 2024.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Richard Lumb, 1990s

Richard Lumb, 1990s

University of Queensland Archives, UQA S916 file 1.1