Henry Winneke

Sir Henry Arthur Winneke, AC, KCMG, KCVO, OBE, QC (20 October 1908 – 28 December 1985) was a Chief Justice of Victoria and the 21st Governor of Victoria, from 1974 to 1982.

Sir Henry Winneke
21st Governor of Victoria
In office
1 June 1974  28 February 1982
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded bySir Rohan Delacombe
Succeeded bySir Brian Murray
Personal details
Born(1908-10-20)20 October 1908
Fitzroy North, Victoria
Died28 December 1985(1985-12-28) (aged 77)
Shoreham, Victoria
Spouse(s)Nancy Wilkinson (1933–83; her death)
Ellis Faul (1984–85; his death)
ChildrenJohn Winneke
EducationUniversity of Melbourne
ProfessionBarrister, judge
Military service
Branch/serviceAustralian Army
Royal Australian Air Force
Years of service1930–1932
RankGroup Captain
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsOfficer of the Order of the British Empire

Early life and career

Winneke was born on 20 October 1908 to the descendants of German immigrants to Victoria. His father, Henry Christian Winneke, was a judge of the County Court of Victoria.[1] Winneke was educated at Ballarat Grammar School, Scotch College and the University of Melbourne, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 1929 and a Master of Laws in 1930. He was a hockey player while at university, and was awarded a University Blue as well as playing in an Australian Universities team. From 1930 to 1932, he also held a lieutenant's commission in the Melbourne University Rifles.[2][3] After doing articles at the solicitors firm Gair & Brahe, he was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Victoria on 1 May 1931 and called to the Victorian Bar on 30 July 1931.[4] He read as a pupil of Wilfred Fullagar, who was later a judge of the High Court of Australia.

Second World War

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Winneke was commissioned a flying officer (temporary flight lieutenant) in the Citizen Air Force, the reserve component of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), on 9 October 1939.[5] He was subsequently promoted to temporary squadron leader on 12 February 1940,[6] to wing commander on 1 October 1941, and to group captain a month later, when he was appointed Director of Personnel Services. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1944.

Post-war career

Following the end of the Second World War, Winneke left the RAAF returned to practice at the Victorian Bar. He developed a large general practice, and was described by Sir John Young (his successor as Chief Justice) as "a very sound lawyer with a clear and penetrating mind", and a "clear and powerful advocate",[7] He was appointed a Kings Counsel in 1949,[8] Senior Counsel for the Attorney-General and Crown prosecutor in January 1950 before being appointed Solicitor-General for the State of Victoria in 1951, the first non-minister to be appointed.[9][10][11] His appointment was the start of the transformation of Solicitors-General in Australia to a quasi-independent statutory office.[12] As Solicitor-General he regularly prosecuted in important Criminal trials, and also appeared for the State of Victoria in Constitutional cases in the High Court of Australia and the Privy Council. While Solicitor-General, he provided advice to the Victorian Government but could be swayed by political considerations as outlined in an ABC News article of 24 April 2021 The memo that erased a scandal. In 1962 he appeared for the government in the High Court, opposing any further delay to the execution of Robert Tait, who had been convicted of murder. He told the court that Tait would be executed the following day, but the government would comply with an order of the court, if it was made. The High Court then made an order delaying the execution.[12][13]

Chief justice and governor

Winneke was appointed as Chief Justice of Victoria in 1964. According to Sir John Young, he was "a model of fairness", who delivered judgments which "were models of clarity and learning".[7] He was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria in 1972. In 1974, he retired from office as Chief Justice and became the Governor of Victoria, an office which he occupied with "great distinction" until 1982. He was knighted in 1957, created a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1966, a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1977 and a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1982. He received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Melbourne in 1978 and Monash University in 1980.

Don Chipp said that Winneke had told him in 1971 that the convicted murderer Leith Ratten was innocent. In 1981, when Ratten had yet to be released, Chipp said Winneke denied the conversation had taken place. Later a member of the Supreme Court at the time of Ratten's trial told Tom Molomby that Winneke had wanted to remove the jury from the trial. Such a move would require a belief that the evidence would not support a guilty verdict.[14]

During the 1970s Winneke worked for the United States of America in what a historian has called "a discreet relationship".[15] To United States officials he professed his "undiminished loyalty".

Personal life

Winneke was married twice, first to Nancy Wilkinson in 1933 by whom he had two sons, John and Michael. Following his first wife's death in 1983, in 1984 he married Ellis Faul, who survived him. His son, John Winneke, was also a judge on the Supreme Court of Victoria, being President of the Court of Appeal from its inception in 1995 until his retirement in 2005. Winneke was a keen golfer and follower of Australian Rules Football, being at one time the number one ticket holder of Hawthorn Football Club.

See also


  1. Francis, Charles. "Winneke, Henry Christian (1874–1943)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538.
  2. "Australian Military Forces". Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. No. 76. 28 August 1930. p. 1768. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  3. "Australian Military Forces & Senior Cadets". Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. No. 77. 3 November 1932. p. 1449. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  4. Waugh, John. "Winneke, Sir Henry Arthur (1908–1985)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538.
  5. "Royal Australian Air Force – Citizen Air Force". Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. No. 121. 2 November 1939. p. 2290. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  6. "Royal Australian Air Force – Citizen Air Force". Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. No. 41. 29 February 1940. p. 510. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  7. "Obituary", [1986] Victorian Reports, pp xi–xii.
  8. "Appointment – King's Counsel". Victorian Government Gazette. 30 November 1949. p. 1949:6587.
  9. "Mr. H. Winneke given state legal post". The Age. 12 December 1951. p. 3. Retrieved 7 February 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  10. "The Victorian Bar — Oral History Part 12 – Sir Henry Winneke". Vicbar.com.au. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  11. The Herald Law Courts Reporter, "No.1 Counsel for the Queen", The Herald, (Saturday, 1 August 1953), p.21.
  12. Appleby, G (28 September 2012). "The Constitutional Role of the Solicitor-General" (PDF). Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  13. Tait v R [1962] HCA 57, (1962) 108 CLR 620, High Court.
  14. Molomby, Tom (1991). Is There a Moderate on the Roof?: ABC Years. W. Heinemann. pp. 84–85. ISBN 9780855614102.
  15. Coventry, C. J., "The Eloquence of Robert J Hawke: United States informer, 1973-79," Australian Journal of Politics and History, 67:1 (2021), 79.

Further reading

  • Coleman, Robert, Above renown: The biography of Sir Henry Winneke, South Melbourne, MacMillan Australia, 1988.
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