William Deane

For the English cricketer, see William Deane (cricketer).
The Honourable
Sir William Deane

Sir William Deane makes the official opening speech at the 2000 Summer Paralympics Opening Ceremony
22nd Governor-General of Australia
In office
16 February 1996  29 June 2001
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Paul Keating (1996)
John Howard (1996–01)
Preceded by Bill Hayden
Succeeded by Peter Hollingworth
Justice of the High Court of Australia
In office
25 June 1982  11 November 1995
Nominated by Malcolm Fraser
Preceded by Ninian Stephen
Succeeded by Michael Kirby
Personal details
Born (1931-01-04) 4 January 1931
Melbourne, Victoria
Spouse(s) Helen Russell
Children 2
Alma mater University of Sydney
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholicism

Sir William Patrick Deane AC, KBE, QC (born 4 January 1931) is a former Australian judge and was the 22nd Governor-General of Australia (1996–2001).

Early life

William Deane was born in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda. He was educated at Catholic schools, including St Joseph's College, Hunters Hill, and at the University of Sydney, where he graduated in arts and law. He also attended the Hague Academy of International Law.


After graduation, Deane worked in the federal Attorney-General's Department in Canberra and at the law firm Minter Simpson (later to become Minter Ellison). He also travelled to Europe to study international law. He was called to the Sydney Bar in 1957 and also lectured in law at university.

During this time, Deane was active in the Catholic community and showed an interest in politics. In 1955 he briefly became a member of the Democratic Labor Party, a predominantly Catholic and anti-Communist breakaway from the Australian Labor Party. He soon became disillusioned with the party and played no further part in active politics, but he was strongly influenced by progressive Catholic doctrines of social justice and of opposition to racial discrimination.

Judicial career

In 1977 Deane was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and, in the same year, he was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia and as President of the Australian Trade Practices Tribunal. In June 1982 he was appointed to the High Court of Australia, replacing Sir Ninian Stephen on his appointment as Governor-General. He received a knighthood in August 1982.[1] On the court he formed part of the majority which recognised native title in the landmark Mabo case of 1992.


In August 1995, the Labor Prime Minister, Paul Keating, announced that the Queen of Australia had agreed to the appointment of Deane as Governor-General to succeed Bill Hayden. Deane retired from the High Court in November and was sworn in as Governor-General on 16 February 1996.[2] Less than a month later the Liberal/National coalition led by John Howard defeated Keating's government in the Australian federal election, 1996. Deane officially opened the 2000 Summer Olympics held in Sydney.

Deane's term of office was due to expire on 31 December 2000 but was extended on the recommendation of the Howard Government until the middle of 2001 to enable him to be Governor-General at the time of the Centenary of Federation celebrations.

As of 2014 Deane acts as Patron or co-Patron of a large number of charitable organizations working for the disadvantaged, including Matthew Talbot Homeless Services, Father Chris Riley's Youth off the Streets, the Starlight Foundation, the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation and Home in Queanbeyan. He is also a Patron of Reconciliation Australia and of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association. The A.C.T. Government appointed him as Patron of the National Capital's 2013 Centenary Celebrations. He is a former Patron and Chair of international aid-organization CARE Australia and a member of its advisory board.


Deane was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) on 10 August 1982, a few weeks after being appointed to the High Court.[1] On Australia Day 1988, he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC). He is also a Knight Commander with Star of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great and a Knight of the Venerable Order of St. John.[3]

In 2001, Deane was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize "for his consistent support of vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians and his strong commitment to the cause of reconciliation".[4]


Government offices
Preceded by
Bill Hayden
Governor-General of Australia
Succeeded by
Peter Hollingworth
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