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Oral History Project: Recounts how history was made in the Legislative Council

Oral History Project: Recounts how history was made in the Legislative Council

​I particularly want to thank those former members and clerks who have given so generously of their time to contribute to the project. Most of all I want to thank them for their contributions to the history and development of the extraordinary and unique institution that is the NSW Legislative Council. This is their story. 

This on-going Project records and shares aspects of the Council's history as told by the people who have shaped its evolution as a House of Review. The Project is being undertaken in stages themed around the events that led to changes in the Council's practice and procedure.

To date, three stages have been completed and stage four is underway. More information about each stage can be found below. Monographs are available by clicking on each heading, with interview transcripts available by clicking on each interviewee's name.

Links to publications and other materials will be posted to this page as the Project progresses.

Stage One: Keeping the Executive Honest: The Modern Legislative Council Committee System

This stage focuses on the establishment and development of parliamentary committees in the Council in 1988. The monograph draws on interviews with five former Members who were integral to the establishment of the committee system: Max Willis, Elisabeth Kirkby, Lloyd Lange, John Hannaford and Ron Dyer

Hear these former Members reflect on the history of the Council's modern committee system in this accompanying video:


Stage Two: Connecting with the People: The 1978 reconstitution of the Legislative Council

This stage examines the events that led to the reconstitution of the Council as a directly elected body in 1978 and transformed the Council into a modern, democratic and representative legislative body. The monograph draws on interviews with nine former Members and two former clerks who share their experiences of this momentous reform: Max Willis, Elisabeth Kirkby, Michael Egan, Ann Symonds, John Hannaford, Jack Hallam, Ron Dyer John Jobling Jenny Gardiner , Les Jeckeln, and John Evans

Stage Three: The Legislative Council and Responsible Government: Egan v Willis and Egan v Chadwick

This stage retold the story of the Egan cases that occurred in the late 1990s which enabled the courts to confirm the power of the House to order the Government to provide state papers.

The monograph draws on interviews with seven former members and former clerks who shared their experiences of this tempestuous period which resulted in confirmation of the powers of the House: The Hon. Max Willis, the Hon Michael Egan AO, the Hon John Hannaford AM, the Hon Dr Elisabeth Kirkby OAM, the Hon Ron Dyer OAM, the Hon John Jobling AM, the Hon Jenny Gardiner, Mr John Evans PSM, and Mr Les Jeckeln AM .

The third monograph was launched on Tuesday 19 September 2017 in the Jubilee Room by the Hon. John Ajaka MLC, President. The launch included a message from Warren Cahill – Usher of the Black Rod at the time of the Egan cases, delivered by Susan Want, current Usher of the Black Rod, and reflections from the Hon. Keith Mason AC QC and Mr Bret Walker SC, counsel for the opposing legal teams.

Photos from the launch can be found here.

Coming up

Work on Project stage four is currently underway with interviews focusing on the rise and role of the Upper House "crossbench". Transcripts of interviews with former members will be added as the project proceeds. Read the transcripts of interviews with the Hon John Tingle, Mr Tony Kelly, Mr Ian Cohen, the Hon John Ryan, the Hon Patricia Forsythe, the Hon Robert Webster, the Hon. Dr Helen Sham-Ho  OAM, Ms Sylvia Hale, the Hon. John Della Bosca, the Hon. Richard Jones, the Hon. Duncan Gay and Revd the Hon. Fred Nile  MLC.


This Project has benefited greatly from the expertise and involvement of Dr David Clune, the former NSW Parliamentary Historian. Dr Clune is the Consultant Historian to the Legislative Council Oral History Project. The Council thanks for him for his valued assistance and ongoing interest in the Project.