The Hon. Robert Reginald DOWNING, LL.B (1904 - 1994)**

  • Date of Birth: 06/11/1904
  • Place of Birth: Tumut, New South Wales, Australia
  • Date of Death: 09/09/1994
  • Place of Death: Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia

Parliamentary Service

Member of the NSW Legislative Council23 Apr 19404 Feb 197231yr(s) 9mth(s) 13day(s)
A Member of the indirectly elected Council 1934 - 1978. Date of Election 1 November 1939, 29 November 1951 and 21 November 1963.
Minister of Justice and Vice-President of Executive Council and Representative of Government.16 May 194115 Mar 195614yr(s) 9mth(s) 29day(s)
Attorney General and Vice President of Executive Council and Representative of Government15 Mar 195613 May 19659yrs 1mth 29days
Representative of members who are not supporters of the Government13 May 196530 Mar 196610mth(s) 18day(s)
Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council31 Mar 19664 Feb 19725yr(s) 10mth(s) 5day(s)

Political Party Activity

Australian Labor Party (ALP). Heffron group from 1936 until 1939, president of Gladesville Branch, state and federal electorate councils; delegate to state and federal conferences.

Qualifications, occupations and interests

Lawyer (barrister). Textile worker and union organiser. Educated at Tumut convent school and St Patrick's College, Goulburn; left school at age 15 and worked at odd jobs in Tumut, moved to Sydney; labourer in the bleach house, Bonds textile factory; joined Australian Textile Workers Union, organiser and state president from 1928 until 1934, New South Wales secretary and federal president from 1934 until 1941, delegate to the Labor Council of New South Wales from 1934 until 1941, trustee from 1935 until 1941; matriculated to University of Sydney in 1938, LLB 1943; called to the Bar in 1943. Owner of a 700 acre sheep property outside Goulburn; trustee of Taronga Park from 1942 until 1972, vice president of Zoological Parks Board from 1972 until 1974; fellow of Senate of University of Sydney from 1949 until 1967, Honorary Member of New South Wales Cancer Council from 1954, President of Australian Cancer Society from 1969 until 1972.

Honours Received

Queens Counsel (QC) in 1973. Honorary LLD 1972.


Son of Robert Downing, council worker, and Frances Jean Galvin. Married Rose Moyeen on 11 April 1932 and had issue, 1 daughter and 2 sons. Roman Catholic. Brother of Francis George Downing, a Member of the Legislative Assembly; cousin of Thomas Chrysostom O'Mara, a Member of the Legislative Assembly.

Additional Information

Personal papers in the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales: Robert Reginald Downing - papers, ca. 1941 - 1965 (MLMSS 2310); photographs in the PICMAN Database. Ken Turner and Michael Hogan (editors), The Worldly Art of Politics, Sydney, Federation Press, 2006 (Chapter 19: "Reg Downing: A safe pair of hands", by David Clune, page 228)