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News > College Life > Remembering John Plunkett

Remembering John Plunkett

b.4 June 1802, d. 9 May 1869
Founding Fellow 1858-1869

For God shows no partiality.
Romans 2:11

John Hubert Plunkett QC was born a twin in 1802 to George and Eileen Plunkett of County Roscommon, Ireland, and his legacy in Australia extends to justice, health care and education. 

Plunkett received his BA from Trinity College, Dublin before shortly obtaining his legal qualifications.  He quickly made a reputation for himself and was given the position of solicitor-general of New South Wales, prompting a move to Sydney in 1832.  This was later followed by his appointment as attorney general.  It was during this time that Plunkett orchestrated crucial law reforms that pushed for legal equality for convicts and the abolition of convict assignments.  He also successfully, after failing on the first try, orchestrated the conviction and execution of seven white men involved in the Myall Creek massacre in which twenty-eight Aboriginal people were killed, sparking outrage among colonists.  Plunkett’s endorsement of The Church Act of 1836 unseated the Church of England’s supremacy and gave equal legal rights to other religious denominations.

He served in the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council, as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney and Council member of St John’s College, as well as becoming the first Chairman of the Board of Education. Despite his many public successes, Plunkett also clashed with the powers that be on education, land and transportation issues.  However, he remained throughout an authoritative Catholic voice. 

He was a long-time generous contributor to the Sisters of Charity and provided crucial support for the establishment of St Vincent’s Hospital for which he advocated a non-denominational status.  Among his published works was The Australian Magistrate which became an important unifying tool in legal practice. 

Plunkett died in 1869 at the age of sixty-six and is remembered as a local early pioneer of legal equality, a necessary hallmark of a modern, democratic nation.   

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