Australian Year Book of International Law
This volume honours Professor Ivan Shearer AM RFD and his contributions to international law in Australia. Ivan Shearer has been both a contributor to and member of the Editorial Board of the Australian Year Book of International Law and it is fitting to dedicate a volume to him.
Ivan Anthony Shearer was born in Adelaide on 9 December 1938 and attended the Collegiate School of St. Peter from 1946-1955 before progressing to the University of Adelaide to study for the Bachelor of Laws. Whilst studying for the LLB, Ivan had the good fortune to be taught by Professor D P O’Connell in constitutional law and jurisprudence (international law not then being offered as a subject). After graduation in 1960, Ivan embarked on an LLM by thesis on the subject of extradition in the British Commonwealth, with O’Connell as his supervisor, and thus began his career in international law.
Following completion of his articles with the Adelaide law firm of Genders Wilson & Bray, he acted as an associate at the Supreme Court of South Australia, attached to Justice Sir Bruce Ross. In 1962 Professor O’Connell received a Ford Foundation grant to study post-colonial succession practice and was in need of a research assistant who knew German. As Ivan had Honours in German, he was picked for the job and spent six months in Heidelberg, followed by three months at the Quai d’Orsay in Paris, and at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London collecting materials. This also presented an opportunity to spend time at the research session of the Hague Academy of International Law with the aid of a Rockefeller Grant.
By this time Ivan was hooked on international law and had abandoned ideas of becoming a barrister (although he took the precaution of being admitted to practice). He was appointed to a tutorship in law at the University of Adelaide, where his students included James Crawford and (now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia) John Doyle. He then won a Ford Foundation scholarship tenable at Northwestern University Law School where he completed coursework and residency requirements in 1964-65 for the SJD degree. His thesis was submitted in 1968 and was subsequently published as Extradition in International Law. In the meantime, Ivan had been appointed first as Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer at the University of Adelaide. He also carried out a field trip on behalf of O’Connell’s state succession project visiting Togo, Dahomey (now Benin), Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Senegal, as well as Liberia (as an example of a non-colonised state).
In 1971-72 Ivan took leave from the University of Adelaide to undertake a mission for the United Nations Development Programme as treaties advisor to the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho. There he worked on the implementation of succession decisions by Lesotho to the treaties formerly applied by Britain to the colony of Basutoland. This included drafting necessary legislation and orders. Increasingly, Ivan’s role was extended to include general international law advice, especially in relation to the position of land-locked states in international law and relations among the countries of the Southern African Customs Union. He even had to attend to matters in the Foreign Ministry that nobody else wanted to deal with, such as visiting a refuge for retired donkeys in the mountains in order to report to a group of ladies in England who had been supporting the refuge for years but without hearing any news. Ivan returned to Lesotho in 1974 to assist, and then to be a member of the Lesotho delegation to the Caracas negotiating session of the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Lesotho offered Ivan the position of Attorney-General of Lesotho but, among other reasons because the position would involve ratification of death sentences, Ivan decided to return to Australia.
In 1973 Ivan was promoted to the rank of Reader in Law and then elected as Dean of Law at Adelaide. In January 1975, Ivan Shearer commenced as a full Professor at the Law School of the University of New South Wales. He remained at UNSW for a total of 17 years, during which he served as Dean for a total of seven years, including one period as both Dean and Head of School. Writing a ‘Letter from the Dean’s Desk’ at one time, Ivan explained: ‘For a short while this year I managed the affairs of the School from my bed. The decanal dog whose jogging style is not yet attuned to my own, caused a spectacular fall.’ Fortunately the damage was not permanent as during this time O’Connell’s The International Law of the Sea (two volumes) was published of which Ivan is credited with editing the final manuscript following O’Connell’s untimely death. Ivan is also credited with introducing the Philip C Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition into Australia, arranging for Sir Percy Spender to preside in 1977 over the first Final of the Australian Regional Rounds.
In 1991, Ivan took leave from UNSW to spend a year as academic in residence at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra. Three weeks into the position and Portugal launched its action in the International Court of Justice against Australia over East Timor. Ivan was actively engaged in preparing Australia’s defence and found the practice of international law and its intersection with diplomacy immensely rewarding.
In 1993 Ivan Shearer left UNSW to become the Challis Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney where he remained until his retirement in 2003 following which the University appointed him as Professor Emeritus in 2004. In this position he was able to concentrate on the teaching of international law at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, as well as being involved in a number of appellate matters touching on international law. Soon after commencing at Sydney the 11th edition of Starke’s International Law appeared under Ivan’s authorship, whilst he also carried out a number of assignments for AusAID including assessing the international law aspects of the Laos/Thailand Friendship Bridge.
Throughout his career, Ivan was an active member of first the RAAF and then the RAN as a legal reserve officer. With the RAAF, Ivan found himself working on wills at bases in northern Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore, whilst in the RAN he rose to the rank of Captain before retiring in 2000. Combining his interest in naval matters with international law permitted Ivan to fill the Stockton Chair of International Law at the US Naval War College in 2000-2001.
In the past decade Ivan Shearer consolidated his reputation as, in the words of David Flint, the ‘doyen of Australia’s international lawyers’. There was perhaps no better illustration of this than Ivan’s appointment twice as a Judge Ad Hoc of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Southern Bluefin Tuna Case (1999) and Volga Case (2000)), as a member of the Annex VII Arbitration Panel in the Straits of Johor Case (2004-2005) and his election in 2001 and subsequent re-election in 2004 as a Member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
We have all been beneficiaries of Ivan’s collegiality over the years. This volume is dedicated to an outstanding scholar and teacher of international law, who has had a profound impact upon generations of law students and the development of the discipline of international law in Australia. We are extremely grateful to all of the contributors who responded so positively to our invitation to participate in this volume to honour our esteemed colleague Ivan Shearer.
Donald R Rothwell