He’s received death threats, survived bombings at the Family Court at Parramatta and endured the assassination of a predecessor during his time on the job, but on Monday the Honourable David Collier was honoured for his longstanding service to the law.
The former judge and current adjunct professor at the University of Western Sydney’s Parramatta campus has been inducted into the general division of the Order of Australia for significant service to the judiciary, to the law and to legal education, anhonour that left him feeling ‘‘absolutely speechless’’.
‘‘I am just overwhelmed,’’ Professor Collier, 70, told the Sun. ‘‘I'm an ordinary bloke who's had some lucky breaks, that's all.’’
From 1962 at age 17, the former Parramatta High vice captain worked his way through the ranks of Parramatta’s legal fraternity, initially as one of about 12 articled clerks for solicitors on George Street, the same street on which he was born and raised.
While he wasn’t paid much in those days, he saw it as a method of gaining practical training ‘‘from the bottom up’’. He and his cohort of fellow juniors - many of whom were high school classmates - were one of the first waves of public school graduates to take up legal training in the region.
‘‘We were at the forefront of taking the law away from the private school boys and opening it up just a little bit,’’ he recalled. ‘‘The men we were articled to and their partners tended to have been from private schools.’’
After passing his exams, he became a solicitor in 1967 and threw himself into advocacy and court work and in ‘81, he was admitted to the bar, at a time when the Family Court was under attack.
‘‘We had a judge assassinated, we had the bombing of the registry, we had a judge's home bombed, we had a judge's wife killed by a bomb in her home... They were bad times.’’
In 1999, he was appointed to the bench and sat at Parramatta until his retirement in 2013, presiding over cases between separated couples fighting over property and children.
‘‘Some of them were quite awful cases. On a scale of one to 10, they were an 11,’’ he said. ‘‘The whole problem is that when couples separate, they often take unreasonable positions.’’
Asked what advice he had for western Sydney youth considering careers in the legal realm, Professor Collier said: ‘‘It's there, and you must go after it.’’
‘‘That's why I've gone to lecturing at the UWS. This is the university I would have gone to if I had been, I'm lecturing kids that I can see a good deal of myself in.’’