A life well lived - Sir Peter Lawler OBE KGCP

James Robertson, Michael Kirby

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial


Sadly, this issue of our journal carries an obituary for Bryan Found and, in this editorial, notice of the recent passing of one of our Life Members, Sir Peter Lawler.

Bryan was lost at too early a time in his life and leaves us to imagine how he could have continued contributing to forensic sciences, adding to his already significant legacy.

One cost of living into old age is that it is all too easy to be forgotten in the passage of time. Hence, it is important to mark the passing of Sir Peter Lawler and recall his career and life. Sir Peter turned 96 on 23 March this year, passing away only a few days later. He had an extraordinarily rich and varied professional life spanning a 42-year career. Joining the then Department of Post-war Reconstruction in 1944 he was sent to the United Kingdom in 1951 to study the workings of the UK government so that the Australian Federal government might learn from these workings. In an address to the Academy in 1983, the Honourable Michael Kirby invoked comparisons with the UK television series Yes Minister, saying that Sir Peter had ‘learned a few tricks’, which he had brought back with him, and that ‘it has taken six governments, 12 Attorneys-General, six major Acts of Parliament and countless cases in courts, in a fruitless attempt to roll back the dominance of the bureaucracy which this most ingenious of civil servants learned from the experts during this period in London.’ By 1964 Sir Peter had risen to the level of Deputy Secretary and in 1966 he wrote the Cabinet decision paper that led to the end of the White Australian policy. He was appointed as Secretary of the Department of the Special Minister of State in 1972. By the time of his retirement in 1983, as Secretary of the Department of Administrative Services, he truly was seen as one of the last ‘mandarins’ of public service.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-360
Number of pages2
JournalAustralian Journal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2017


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