Welcome to the NSW Legislative Council’s Oral History Project home page. The Project seeks to record and share 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 with the first stage having examined the establishment of the Council's system of standing committees in 1988. Further information about stage can be found below under the heading 'Keeping the Executive Honest: The Modern Legislative Council Committee System'.
Work on Project stages two and three is currently underway with interviews being held to examine the events that led to the reconstitution of the Council as a directly elected body in 1978, as well as the Egan cases that occurred in the late 1990s and which enabled the courts to consider a number of important issues regarding the relationship of the Executive to the Parliament. To date eight interviews have been held with further interviews scheduled for the latter half of 2016. Links to the first eight interview transcripts are available below under the heading 'Reconstitution and Egan cases interview transcripts'.
Links to publications and other materials will be posted to this page as the Project progresses.
Keeping the Executive Honest: The Modern Legislative Council Committee System
Keeping the Executive Honest is the first instalment of the Legislative Council’s Oral History Project. It focuses on the development of committees in the Council. The monograph draws on interviews with five former Members who were integral to the establishment of the committee system:
John Hannaford and
Click on the former Member’s names above for links to transcripts from their interviews.
Hear these former Members reflect on the history of the Council's modern committee system in this accompanying video:
Connecting with the People: The 1978 reconstitution of the Legislative Council
Connecting with the People is the second instalment of the Legislative Council's Oral History Project. It focuses on the 1978 reconstitution of the Legislative 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,
Click on the former Member's or Clerks names above for links to transcripts from their interviews.
The Legislative Council and Responsible Government: Egan v Willis and Egan v Chadwick
The third monograph of the Oral History project, "The Legislative Council and Responsible Government: Egan v Willis and Egan v Chadwick", again written by Dr David Clune, deals with the next stage in the development of the revitalised New South Wales upper house – the struggle in the House and in the courts that confirmed the power of the House to order the production of state papers. It is this set of events, and the ongoing use of the powers by the Council, that led to the late Harry Evans, former Clerk of the Senate, describing the NSW Legislative Council as "being more courageous … than any comparable house" and "a world leader in this area".
The monograph draws on interviews with seven former members and former clerks who shared their experiences of this tempestuous period 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 .
Click on the former Members or Clerks' names above for links to transcripts from their interviews.
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.
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.