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Sir George Hermann Lush (1912–2000)

by Renn Wortley

This article was published online in 2024

Sir George Lush, 1985, by Richard Crompton

Sir George Lush, 1985, by Richard Crompton

Monash University Archives

Sir George Hermann Lush (1912–2000), barrister, judge, and university chancellor, was born on 5 October 1912 at Hawthorn, Melbourne, second of three children of John Fullarton Lush, insurance clerk, and his wife Dora Louisa Emma, nee Püttmann, both Victorian born. His sister was the bacteriologist Dora Mary Lush (1910–1943). Educated (1925–29) at Carey Baptist Grammar School, Kew (dux 1928), George joined a Young Australia League tour of North America from January to June 1929, before returning to Carey as school captain and winning prizes in French, Latin, and debating.

With a residential scholarship to Ormond College (1930–33), Lush studied law at the University of Melbourne (LLB, 1933), distinguishing himself as a scholar and a sportsman and winning the university exhibition in property and contract law. In the final honours examinations in 1934 he qualified for the degree of master of laws, conferred belatedly in 1969. After serving articles with Madden, Butler, Elder, and Graham, he was admitted as a legal practitioner on 1 May 1935, signed the Victorian Bar Roll on 21 June, and proceeded to build up an extensive practice.

On 5 June 1940 in Hobart, Lush enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force for service in World War II. He may have volunteered interstate to forestall accepting a commission in the Australian Army Legal Department, of which he later observed ‘the only attraction is the comparatively high rank’ (Lush and Lush 2022, 42). With the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion, he served in the Middle East from May 1941. On 25 June while on military operations he was injured in the legs by a wire trailing from a truck. Though the wounds healed, ongoing severe infection led to a lengthy stay in hospital from July to December. After completing officer training in Cairo he was commissioned as a lieutenant on Anzac Day in 1942. In October he was posted to the 2/43rd Battalion, which returned to Australia in February 1943.

On 9 March 1943 at St John’s Church of England, Heidelberg, Lush married Winifred Betty Wragge, a research scientist in biochemistry and physiology, and a graduate of the University of Melbourne (MSc, 1937). In New Guinea from September to December 1943, Lush and his battalion fought in appalling conditions against the Japanese at Lae and Finschhafen. Back in Australia, he was promoted to captain in January 1944 and assigned to the Australian Army Legal Corps, based in Melbourne. He transferred to the reserve of officers in December 1945 and returned to the Bar.

Despite the increasing demands of his practice, Lush lectured part time (1947–55) in mercantile law at the University of Melbourne. Appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1957, he was a commissioner (1961–66) of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and president (1962–63) of the Medico-Legal Society of Victoria. From 1964 he served both as chairman of the Victorian Bar Council and as president of the Australian Bar Association, until his appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1966.

Earning a reputation as ‘one of the great judges of the Supreme Court,’ Lush was ‘adept in all areas of its jurisdiction … decisive, firm and courteous, with wit and learning to match’ (Harper 2000, 25). He would later reflect: ‘The reward of this profession is that it involves dealing with a constant procession of differing people, with various and constantly new problems, and is for that reason utterly fascinating’ (Jones 2000, 12). He was knighted in 1979 and retired from the court in 1983.

A former member (1969–74) of the council of Monash University, in retirement Sir George became its fourth chancellor (1983–92), chairing the council with ‘intelligence, reason, moderation, and astuteness’ (Wortley 2000) through a turbulent period of change in higher education. Monash colleagues valued his friendship and wise advice, and he took obvious pleasure in presiding over each graduation ceremony. In 1993 the university awarded him the honorary degree of doctor of laws.

Lush was also the founding patron (1979–2000) of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Law, and chairman (1981–90) of the Ormond College council. In May 1986 the Hawke government appointed him to chair a Federal parliamentary commission of inquiry, consisting of three former judges, to investigate the conduct of the High Court justice Lionel Murphy. The commission was disbanded in August after Murphy revealed he was dying of cancer.

Five feet seven inches (170 cm) tall, with a medium build, fair complexion, and blue eyes, Lush enjoyed walking, especially with his family in the Otway Ranges. He sustained a wide variety of friendships, delighting in good conversation, to which he contributed in a measured and often drily humorous way. Later in life, he wrote about his war experiences in a privately published memoir, Campaigning (1989), described as ‘fearless, one might say judicial, in its confrontation with truth’ (Jones 2000, 12). He never joined the Returned and Services League but attended a reunion and the Anzac Day dawn service each year. Survived by his wife, and their three daughters, he died at Richmond, Melbourne, on 5 April 2000, and was cremated. A portrait (1985) by Clifton Pugh is held by the Monash University Museum of Art.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Harper, David. ‘Sir George Lush: Judge and University Chancellor.’ Age (Melbourne), 17 April 2000, 25
  • Jones, Philip. ‘Judge Set Fairness Standard.’ Australian, 24 April 2000, 12
  • Lush, G. H. Campaigning: A Personal Recollection. Melbourne: privately published, 1989
  • Lush, Mary, and Jennifer Lush, eds. George to Betty: The Wartime Letters of George Lush to Betty Wragge. Melbourne: Mary Lush and Jennifer Lush, 2022
  • National Archives of Australia. B883, TX2219
  • Personal knowledge of ADB subject
  • Wortley, Renn. ‘A Tribute to Sir George Lush (1912–2000).’ Monash Memo (Melbourne), no. 13, 3 May 2000

Citation details

Renn Wortley, 'Lush, Sir George Hermann (1912–2000)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lush-sir-george-hermann-32911/text40996, published online 2024, accessed online 29 May 2024.

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