Ken Buckley served as an officer and
as a paratrooper in the British Army in the Middle East
and in Greece towards the end of the 2nd World War and
during the post-war turbulence that followed. He was educated
in London where he was born and he graduated from London
University. During his university years and beyond, he
was an active communist, prominently involved in student
politics. In those years, and in Greece, he developed
a strong sense of justice and a commitment to the cause
of freedom from oppression. This has dominated his life
ever since. He migrated to Australia in 1953 to take up
a senior lectureship in Economic History at Sydney University
and quickly became involved in academic politics and issues
of staff welfare. He also led an Australian campaign for
the independence of Cyprus from British rule.
Highly regarded as a teacher by his students,
he retired as Associate Professor of Economic History
at Sydney University in 1988. Since then, Buckley has
maintained a positive profile through his writings as
an historian and through his media involvement on social
issues. He is the author of many books including co-authorship
of a biography of Dr H V Evatt, commissioned by the Evatt
Foundation. To Buckley the pursuit of justice has no compromise.
Civil liberties, he believes, means freedom from arbitrary
control of one's life by government - unnecessary intrusions
of authority, especially by police and through censorship.
It means freedom of expression and the right to dissent.
In the name of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties he
has led the charge on civil liberties matters in NSW since
1963 and has written and spoken extensively on civil liberties
issues. While maintaining a strong personal commitment
to the left in politics he has pursued an equally committed,
steadfastly non-political position on issues of civil
liberties to ensure the Council's acceptance by a broad
cross section of people. He has been its lynch pin since
its foundation and has occupied most executive positions.
Although not a lawyer, he has considerable legal "know-how"
which he has acquired through long association with the
lawyers on the Council and his characteristically well
researched approach to all issues. Describing himself
as "an aggressive bastard", he expresses his views without
fear or favour, particularly when his audience is a "copper".
In 1998, Ken Buckley and his wife, Berenice,
also a foundation member of the organisation, were among
50 Australians recognised by the Human Rights and Equal
Opportunities Commission for their contribution to the
maintenance of human rights in Australia through the Council
for Civil Liberties. In 2000 Ken Buckley was awarded an
Order of Australia in recognition of his "service to the
community as an advocate for civil liberties, human rights
and social justice issues in Australia, particularly through
the NSW Council for Civil Liberties." Buckley still holds
a Committee member on the Council and is an active leader
in its activities. Few organisations can boast such ongoing
leadership provided by its founder for nearly four decades.
Dr Dick Klugman, a Sydney medico and
later federal Labor politician, was one of the founding
members of the Council for Civil Liberties. He and many
other young students in the late 40s and 50s experienced
violent police oppression while expressing their rights
of assembly and free speech - in particular during protests
against continuing Dutch presence in Indonesia. For him,
as for many others, freedom of expression, a civil right
of paramount importance, was under threat in this country.
He opposed dogmas of any sort, objected strongly to censorship
and, perhaps above all, resented the threats to freedoms
manifest in the behaviour of the police. While President
of the Labor Club of Sydney University and during the
demonstrations he made the headlines in the daily newspapers
as a 'commo demonstrator' - an epithet that, because of
his strong anti-communist views angered him considerably.
Klugman was a member of the Humanist Society and strongly
opposed compulsory religious education. As well, he protested
against racial discrimination and was, in the 60s and
70s, very critical of police and government treatment
of Aborigines. He was a strong advocate of law reform,
especially of those laws related to victimless crimes
like gambling, drug use, prostitution and vagrancy - laws
used by many police to flex their muscle and impose unnecessary
authority on people's behaviour. He believed such crimes
should be decriminalised. He had made earlier attempts
to establish an organisation to protect civil liberties
and in 1963, together with Ken Buckley and Jack Sweeney,
founded the present non-political organisation which would
promote a cause that reflected the values of freedom and
justice they believed important in a democratic society.
Dick Klugman was heavily involved in
the formation of the Council. Not only did he attract
membership from many friends, lawyers and academics but
he concerned himself in a very practical way with administrative
and organisational matters when the new organisation was
being established. He became the Council's first Treasurer,
was industrious in the development of an office and financial
organisation, contacting and attracting new members, processing
applications and mailing information - all mundane and
time consuming but essential tasks for the new organisation.
He was a founder in the true sense of the word. Klugman
became a member of the House of Representatives in 1969.
During his long parliamentary career he served on many
social and foreign affairs committees and was the Australian
Labor Party spokesman on Health, Science and Veterans'
Affairs while in opposition. His resistance to religious
and political dogmas reflected his strong belief in the
importance of individual freedoms and although he left
the Council during the late 70s because of his perception
that partisan political issues were dominating, his belief
in a non-political organisation to safeguard civil liberties
has remained. Of the three founders, Klugman was politically
the most conservative, holding views on issues such as
the Vietnam War and conscription that would have varied
significantly from those of Buckley and Sweeney. These
differences were of little importance while they remained
outside the deliberations of the a-political Council for
Jack Sweeney QC was the third of the
founders of the Council for Civil Liberties. He was an
established lawyer with a particular reputation for his
skills in industrial law, a field in which he was recognised
as Sydney's top industrial barrister. He apparently belonged
to the Communist Party in the 30s and probably into the
40s when, like many others, he drifted away as a result
of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. He had an affinity with the left
in the union movement and was an active civil libertarian
in the lead-up to and during the second World War when
restrictions on liberties were commonplace. Such restrictions
were of great concern to many socially aware lawyers and
others who believed that basic human rights were sacrosanct
and for whom the acceptance of restrictions was untenable.
As a solicitor in the 30s, he was involved in the famous
Egon Kisch case and in 1941 represented the unionists
Ratcliff and Thomas who were interned under the Menzies
government's draconian National Security Regulations.
Sweeney was always impressive in debate, an outspoken
defender of civil liberties and eloquent in his defence
of trade unionists generally, whom he saw frequently as
victims of employer exploitation and oppressive government
regulation. The rights of the less empowered were of great
concern to him.
He became a QC in 1962 and was a highly
respected member of the bar in NSW. Because of his standing
in the legal profession, he was able to interest a considerable
number of lawyers in joining the Council for Civil Liberties
- lawyers who were tired of defending criminal cases where
the police were falsifying evidence or, in some cases,
indulging in criminal behaviour themselves. These lawyers
were to form the backbone of the Council and provide the
technical skills used in defending those denied their
rights. They were prepared to work for the CCL, in most
cases, as long as it remained apolitical. He was very
interested in art, music and the theatre. As well, he
owned several race horses with which he had occasional
success. In the final stages of his career he was a Deputy
President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration
Commission, then judge of the Australian Industrial Court.
In 1977 he was appointed as a judge of the Federal Court
where he remained until his death in 1981.
One of the people invited to the inaugural
meeting of the CCL, because of her knowledge of immigration
matters, was Berenice Granger. She was also an active
member of the Humanist Society and was attracted to the
idea of an organisation safeguarding and promoting civil
liberties and rights. Her association with community organisations
and her interests were related strongly to her involvement
in matters concerning the problems of migrants. She was
Secretary of the Good Neighbour Council in NSW, part of
a national community organisation which, although supposedly
independent in its operation was set up by the federal
government to facilitate the acceptance of new migrants
into the Australian community. From the inaugural meeting
of the Council for Civil Liberties in September 1963,
she was involved in the structuring of the organisation,
promoting membership and contributing to the drawing up
of its constitution. In those formative days she met and
married Ken Buckley. Her involvement has been maintained
directly and indirectly ever since, as Assistant Secretary,
subcommittee co-ordinator and committee member until her
retirement during the 90s. Berenice Buckley was very active
in the Council for Civil Liberties - particularly in campaigns
against censorship - both books and theatre - on one occasion
publicly challenging the government to arrest her for
importing a banned book. She has also been active in homosexual
law reform. However, she has been most involved in and
brought special expertise to the CCL in the area of migrant
rights and immigration and citizenship issues. At that
time the Minister for Immigration had total power and
people were being refused citizenship or denied entry
into Australia with no reason being provided. The Council
was able, with her help, to draw attention to specific
issues especially those relating to deportations and the
right of appeal. The rights of migrants in relation to
the police and the courts, and the absence of interpreters
were also issues. Her close affiliation with community
organisations made her one of the few people in NSW at
that time who understood the law in relation to migrants
and what was going on in migrant communities. As a result
of this she joined the law Section of the Commission of
Inquiry into Poverty under (then) Professor Ron Sackville
researching the situation of migrants in relation to their
contact and experiences with the law and legal procedures
in three states - NSW, Victoria and South Australia. After
her many years of dealing with migrant and other community
issues, Ms Buckley became a senior public servant in NSW
where she remained until she retired. In 1998, together
with her husband, she was recognised by the Human Rights
and Equal Opportunities Commission for her promotion of
human rights in Australia.
here to read Berenice Buckley Obituary
- Born Dubbo, New South Wales, 25th June 1926 and educated
at Dubbo High School 1939-1943. As a teenager won numerous
golf tournaments and championships. Served as a trainee
pilot in the Australian Air Force 1944/1945. Studied
law at Sydney University 1946/1950. Admitted as barrister
to NSW Bar 1950. As an amateur, won numerous Australian
golf championships between 1946 and 1950.
- Lived and worked as a solicitor in London, England
between 1950 and 1954 and part time did postgraduate
studies in law at the University of London.
- With some success, played in the British Amateur and
Open Golf Championships in 1951 and 1952. Returned to
Australia in 1955.
- Foundation member of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.
- Practiced as a barrister at the NSW Bar and taught
law, part time, at Sydney Technical College 1955/1962.
Moved to Canberra 1962 to work as Senior Lecturer in
Law at the Australian National University. Returned
to the Bar, in Canberra in 1966, continuing to teach
law part time until being elected, as an Australian
Labor Party candidate, to the House of Representatives
of the Australian Parliament in 1970.
- Appointed a Queens Council [QC] in 1973.
- Acted as defence counsel for many anti-Vietnam war
- Elected as part of the Whitlam Labor Government in
- Minister for the Australian Capital Territory and
also the Northern Territory 1972/1973.
- Minister for Secondary Industry and Supply 1973/1974
- Minister for Manufacturing Industry 1974/1975
- Minister for Customs and Excise, 1975 and finally
- Attorney-General of Australia 1975.
- Parliamentary delegate to the Australian Constitutional
- Chairman, House of Representatives Privileges Committee
- Member of the National Executive of the Australian
Labor Party 1971/1975.
- Leader Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Sweden,
Denmark and the USSR 1973. As Minister for Manufacturing
Industry, in 1974, made official visit to England, France,
Sweden, the then two republics of West and East Germany
and the then Czechoslavakia.
- Leader of the Australian Delegation to 5th UN Congress
on Crime and Punishment in Geneva 1975.
- For many years President of the Australian/ Soviet
- After the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in 1975
and its subsequent defeat at the 1975 election, moved
to Sydney in 1976 and returned to practice at the ACT
and NSW Bars. Practiced as a QC.
- Appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW in
- President, NSW Branch of the Australian Institute
of International Affairs 1983/1985.
- Councillor of Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences,
- Retired from the Supreme Court in 1992.
- Became President, Australia Esperanto Association,
1992/1997. Chairman, Local Organising Committee of 82nd
Universala Kongreso de Esperanto in Adelaide in 1997.
- Chairman, NSW Serious Offenders Review Council 1997/2000.
BOB ST JOHN
One of the foundation members of the
CCL was Bob St John, a young lawyer who joined the Council
to add his voice to the growing number of protests about
the unacceptable behaviour of police in NSW both on the
beat and in the courts.
Ex-Navy, a graduate of Sydney University,
Bob St John was always available as a 'CCL lawyer' and
made his presence felt in court in the cause of civil
liberties, defending the underprivileged , notably Aborigines,
supporting the right to protest, and challenging the unlawful
practices if many police. He championed the victims of
the infamous vagrancy laws, as well as demonstrators against
government policies on Vietnam and against apartheid in
South Africa. In 1964 St John led the way in the CCL's
first victory - the acquittal of the Aborigine, Ken Brindle,
accused of using insulting words to a policeman. Charges
like 'offensive behaviour' - frequently brought by police
against demonstrators - quickly lost their status as a
sure means of conviction under the scrutiny and eloquence
of Bob St John. He was a tough advocate - always impressive
in court. As CCL founder, Ken Buckley recalls, "I
remember sitting in court as a spectator and learning
how apt was the nickname of 'the Bear' for Bob St John
- a number of police witnesses were often mauled."
In 1966 the success of the appeal by
the authors of Oz magazine against their conviction for
printing an obscenity can be attributed largely to the
anti-censorship campaign of the CCL which Bob St John
He was President of the Council for Civil
Liberties from 1970 to 1974. His elevation as Judge of
the Federal Court in 1977, a clear acknowledgment of his
contribution to justice in Australia, deprived the CCL
of one of its most effective advocates. He occupied other
judicial positions in Australian courts as well as that
of Chief Justice of Western Samoa. He was made a life
member of the Council for Civil Liberties in 1975 and
retired from the judiciary in 1986 to return to the Bar.
Scott & Dorothy Campbell, All rights reserved
[back to top]
Mary McNish was born Mary Flower in Camden NSW on the
31st October 1925. She was the daughter of a bank manager
and spent her early years in Willow Tree, NSW.
She was educated at MLC Burwood and Sydney Teachers College
and worked as both a primary and special education teacher
as well as in a number of other roles.
She married (1) artist John Olsen, and (2) Alex McNish.
She has two daughters, Rosemary and Jane (who died in
A staunch defender of civil liberties, she was a prominent
member of the Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) between1969
and her retirement in 1995.
Mary has been a vehement supporter of many issues, including
homosexual law reform, censorship, prison reform, immigration
issues, Aboriginal rights and the public’s right
In 1971, she was charged, together with Tony Blackshield,
with attempting to sell an indecent publication. The CCL
defended her with the help of member and solicitor (later
High Court Judge) Mary Gaudron and got a no bill verdict
on the grounds that they had not been properly arrested.
She campaigned against the Queensland legislation prohibiting
street marches in 1979, and along with George Petersen,
M.L.A., Senator George Georges, and 63 others, was arrested
for her action.
Earlier she had been an active anti-Vietnam war campaigner.
During this time she was arrested and charged with inciting
young men not to register for national service.
She was associated with the Citizens Committee Against
National Service and the Liberal Reform Group which became
the Australia Party and then the Democrats. In 1971 and
1972 representing the Australia Party, she unsuccessfully
stood for election for Willoughby in the New South Wales
Mary has filled a number of roles on the council including
that of Secretary from 1992-1995. During her time as Secretary
she worked in close collaboration with President John
Marsden. CCL business was often sorted out at 4.00am in
the morning with a telephone call to discuss issues!
Mary was made a life member of the CCL in 1996, for her
significant contribution to the organisation. As Justice
Mary Gaudron said in her presentation, Mary will always
be remembered for her contribution to common sense when
common sense was in noticeably short supply.