The Hon. Justice Ian Jackman (Fr 1981) is a well known and prominent Andrew’s alumnus whose academic talents earned him the NSW Rhodes Scholarship in 1985, and have led him to a most distinguished career in the field of law. Ian’s achievements, evident throughout his tenure as a senior barrister since 2002, were recently acknowledged with his appointment as a Justice of the Federal Court of Australia in early 2023.
Ian has been a dedicated member of the St Andrew’s College Council since 2014 and is a member of the College’s Highlander Club. He and his wife Nicola have four children, three of whom have so far followed in their father’s footsteps through St Andrew’s – Xander (Fr 2014), Nick (Fr 2015) and Ewan (Fr 2022). Always generous with his time, Ian spoke to us about his personal and professional motivators and some of the highlights of his career to date.
Please tell us a little more about yourself – where are you originally from and where did you grow up?
We came to Australia in 1966 as Ten Pound Poms, and lived in Sydney on the North Shore. The three of us boys attended Knox Grammar School.
How did you come to reside at St Andrew’s? And once here, what parts of College life did you involve yourself in?
I was very keen to experience life at a residential college, and St Andrew’s offered me a Major Entrance Scholarship, which I was delighted to accept. I played Rawson Cup Rugby and served on the House Committee for three years.
You graduated first with a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours from the University of Sydney. The following year you won the Rhodes Scholarship for New South Wales and headed to Oxford to study law. What was it that attracted you to this particular career path?
History was my first love, and we were fortunate to have two outstanding historians in the Senior Common Room at Andrew’s at the time, Ian Jack and Jim Angel. Jim Angel encouraged me to consider a career in the diplomatic corps, but Bob Stein insisted that I should finish the study of law which I had started. I found undergraduate law at Oxford immensely enjoyable, and stayed on for a third year to do the Bachelor of Civil Law.
Has there been a particular case or piece of work that you are most proud of?
My favourite case was the trade mark case E&J Gallo Winery v Lion Nathan Australia Pty Ltd (2010) 241 CLR 144. The subject-matter of wine and beer is, of course, intrinsically fascinating, and we managed to succeed 5-0 in the High Court despite having lost at every level until then (probably because there was very little, if any, commercial or moral merit in our position). Apart from work in court, I would like to think that my book, The Varieties of Restitution, has had some impact in saving Australian law from the “unjust enrichment” train-wreck.
Earlier this year you were appointed as a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia. Could you please tell us about the process involved to reach this position and what your role involves?
The selection process begins with a phone call from the Chief Justice to sound out interested Senior Counsel, and then names are put to the Federal cabinet for final approval. The Court’s work involves a very wide range of work arising under federal statutes, and judges sit on both trials and appeals. My own work is mainly in company law and commercial law, reflecting my experience at the Bar.
You have also been involved with the College as a member of the Council since 2014. What has been the most enjoyable aspect of being part of the Council, as well as the most challenging?
It has been most satisfying to see how the College has developed into the flourishing institution we see today. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many talented students and seeing them make the most of the great opportunities on offer. The fact that my three sons have been students at the College during this period has been an added bonus (my daughter is still at school). The most challenging aspect has undoubtedly been the disciplinary decisions, which are mercifully quite rare (enough said).
In August 2022, you founded the Displaced Students Trust. Can you explain what the Trust does and what drove you to establish it?
We have all been saddened by the war in Ukraine, and when I met a displaced Ukrainian family who were desperate to get their daughter into the University of Sydney, and into a residential college so that she could make new friends her own age, I was determined to help.
Also, we are sometimes criticised by the other colleges for not collaborating more, and I thought that this was an excellent project for the Sydney Colleges to work on together. Our work consists of raising money to assist Ukrainians who would like to live in college, and also in lobbying the universities to provide humanitarian scholarships for displaced Ukrainians (as they are otherwise charged full international student fees). The two Ukrainians who are currently freshers at Andrew’s are both outstanding students who are making a great contribution to the life of the College.
Is there anything you like to do outside of work to help you relax and switch off?
Reading, theatre, travelling, keeping fit and skiing. I particularly enjoy keeping in touch with former rugby players from SUFC, and I get to their games when I can.
We heard you are an avid reader! What are you reading at the moment that you’d recommend to others?
I have just finished Noah Rothman’s ‘The Rise of the New Puritans’, which is an excellent reminder of how seriously progressive philosophy takes itself, and tries to prevent people from just having fun. It was a present from my oldest son, and I am delighted to see all my children in tune with the College spirit.