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Alumnus Justice Beech-Jones reflects on his time at Burgmann College

Alumnus Justice Robert Beech-Jones' (1984–1986) appointment to the High Court of Australia commenced this November; the culmination of a distinguished judicial career that began at the ANU College of Law and Burgmann College. We are honoured by Justice Beech-Jones sharing his cherished memories of Burgmann, and proud of his history-making appointment to the High Court of Australia.

Justice Robert Beech-Jones grew up in Wynard and Savage River, Tasmania, the youngest child of Welsh parents who had immigrated to Australia for work opportunities in the early 1960s. Beech-Jones was awarded a scholarship to study Science at the Australian National University, though he would eventually graduate with Bachelors in both Science and Law.

His eldest brother, David, had lived in Bruce Hall during his studies at ANU, so Beech-Jones had initially followed in David’s footsteps and lived in Bruce Hall. However, Beech-Jones said by the end of the first year, he knew it wasn’t a fit, and changed his residence to Burgmann College.

“It was the right choice then, and in retrospect, I still think it was the right choice,” says Beech-Jones.

He says his time at Burgmann opened his perspective to a wider community, allowing him to live with and befriend people he wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to meet and know.

“Burgmann allowed people to choose and change who they wanted to be,” he says. “Many of my closest friends are Burgmann alumni.”

His wide-angle lens to the world has served him well. He has been involved in a wide range of judicial proceedings over the years, from white collar crime and commercial law to immigration law and human rights cases. He credits his early career decision to leave a large, commercial law firm for a smaller, immigration-focussed law firm in Sydney’s Chinatown as having broadened his experience, and set him on the trajectory for his future success.

“It broadened my experience base dramatically at an early stage in my career. As my career continued, having a broad range of experience has been a great advantage,” he says.

Since graduating from ANU Law in 1988, Justice Beech-Jones’ career has been marked with notable achievements and a consistent upward progression toward his current appointment. Four years after graduation, he was admitted as a Barrister in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, where he would later be appointed as Senior Counsel in 2006. Six years later, he was sworn in as a Judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court, and then elected President of the Judicial Conference of Australia for 2016–2018. He was appointed Chief Judge of the Common Law Division of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and a Judge of Appeal in 2021. His appointment as a Justice to the High Court of Australia commenced on November 6, 2023.

Beech-Jones remembers his time at Burgmann College fondly. “In terms of life and values, Burgmann was incredibly important.”

Justice Beech-Jones is remembered by his classmates in the 1984–1986 issues of Omphalos as “intelligent,” a “future Prime Minister,” possessing a “quick and fair mind” and an “instinct for what’s right.”

He’s also remembered by his classmates as being “sporty.” In fact, Beech-Jones was named Burgmann’s 1984 “Sportsperson of the Year,” and he says Burgmann’s 1985 AFL grand final win over Bruce Hall is a standout memory. (Justice Beech-Jones is pictured above in his #9 jersey.)

Justice Beech-Jones advises current Burgmann residents to make the most of their time in university and at College.

“Remember you are privileged to have a college life,” he says. “The best way to respect that is to take full advantage of your time in university while keeping your eye on learning.”

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