Robin Cooke Lecture

The Cooke lecture is given in honour of the late Lord Cooke of Thorndon, a Law School alumnus who is widely considered New Zealand’s most eminent jurist.

Lord Cooke, ONZ, KBE, QC, PC (9 May 1926 – 30 August 2006) was born in Wellington, attended Wanganui Collegiate School, and graduated with an LLM degree from Victoria. He subsequently studied at Clare College, Cambridge as a Research Fellow. While on a travelling scholarship, Lord Cooke was awarded a MA degree in 1954 from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and subsequently, a PhD degree in 1955.

He practised law in New Zealand for almost 20 years and was appointed a QC in 1964. In 1972 he was appointed as a Judge of what was then the Supreme Court, now the High Court. In 1976 he was elevated to the New Zealand Court of Appeal, which at that time was the highest court in the country. In 1986 he was appointed as President of that Court, a position he was to hold for the next 10 years. He is the only New Zealand judge to have sat in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom.

Now a firm tradition at the Faculty of Law, the Robin Cooke lecture continues to be the pinnacle of the calendar of events and is generously supported by the Cooke family.

Robin Cooke Lecture 2023

Professor Jason Varuhas

Held in the first two weeks of December each year, the 2023 Robin Cooke lecture was delivered by Professor Jason Varuhas of Melbourne Law School.

Examining recent judgments on the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, tikanga Māori, common law rights, and the intersection of international law, Professor Varuhas argued the common thread in these cases is a burgeoning judicial discourse of fundamental principles or values.

Watch Professor Varuhas' "The future of public law in Aotearoa New Zealand"

Past Cooke lectures have been given by:

  • 2022 - Professor Janet McLean: "Public Servants and The Rule of Law" - watch here
  • 2020 - The Right Honourable Dame Helen Winkelmann Chief Justice of New Zealand: "Picking up the thread: The common law—continuity & change in challenging times" - watch here
  • 2019 - The Hon Justice Joe Williams: "Build a Bridge and Get Over It: The Role of Colonial Dispossession in Contemporary Indigenous Offending and What We Should Do About It" - watch here
  • 2018 - Justice Sheilah L Martin: "Equality Jurisprudence in Canada"
  • 2017 - Professor Martin Loughlin: "The British Constitution: Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents"
  • 2016 - Professor Timothy Endicott: "Lawful Power"
  • 2015 - Professor Jeremy Waldron: "Rule by Law: A Much Maligned Preposition"
  • 2014 - Hon Robert French, Chief Justice of Australia: "Common Law Constitutionalism"
  • 2013 - Professor Tony Smith: "New Zealand Law Now"
  • 2012 - Rt Hon Lady Justice Mary Arden DBE: "Press, Privacy and Proportionality"
  • 2011 - Professor Cheryl Saunders: "A Constitution as Catalyst: Different Paths within Australasian Administrative Law"
  • 2010 - Sir Anthony Mason: "Human Rights: Interpretation, Declarations of Inconsistency and the Limits of Judicial Power"
  • 2009 - Professor Emeritus David Mullan: "Judicial Review of the Executive: Principled Exasperation"
  • 2008 - Rt Hon Lord Bingham of Cornhill: "What is the Law?"
  • 2007 - John Burrows QC: "Common Law Amongst the Statutes"
  • 2006 - Arthur Chaskalson: "Bad Law Makes Hard Cases: Legal Responses to Terrorism"
  • 2005 - Beverley McLachlin: "Unwritten Constitutional Principles: What Is Going On?"
  • 2004 - Justice Michael Kirby: "Deep Lying Rights – A Constitutional Conversation Continues"
  • 2003 - Dame Sian Elias: "Something Old, Something New: Constitutional Stirrings and the Supreme Court"
  • 2002 - Lord Johan Steyn: "Democracy through law"