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The Rt Hon Sir Samuel Griffith, GCMG


Portrait of Sir Samuel Griffith by Sir William Dargie (1979)

Portrait of Sir Samuel Griffith by Sir William Dargie (1979)

Sir Samuel Griffith served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland for the decade 1893–1903, and in 1901 was appointed a Privy Counsellor. He served as the first Chief Justice of Australia 1903-19. He had been admitted to the Queensland Bar in 1867 and was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1876.

Sir Samuel Griffith had an earlier career in politics and government. He was a Member of Queensland’s Legislative Assembly (1872–93), Premier (1883–88 and 1890–93), Attorney-General (1874–78), Leader of the Opposition (1879–83), Colonial Secretary (1883–86), Colonial Treasurer (1887–88), and Lieutenant Governor (Queensland) (1899–1903). Griffith was appointed a Knight Commander (KCMG) (1886) and awarded a Grand Cross of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in 1895.


“We must not lose sight of the essential condition that this is to be a federation of states and not a single government of Australia”

Sir Samuel Griffith (1891)


Griffith was a leading figure in the political movement for federation, having proposed and at times presided over the Federal Australasian Council. On his appointment to the High Court he ensured that the Court became recognised as the pre-eminent legal authority in Australia.

Sir Samuel Griffith also undertook other public roles. He was a member of the University of Sydney Senate 1904–17, was appointed a vice-president of the Royal Colonial Institute in 1909, and became an honorary fellow of the British Academy in 1916. He was awarded honorary doctorates of law by the University of Queensland in 1912 and the University of Wales in 1913


The following papers by the Honourable Dyson Heydon, AC, which were given to the conferences of The Samuel Griffith Society in 2012 and 2013 respectively, provide more detail about the life and achievements of Sir Samuel Griffith:

The Hon. Dyson Heydon, AC
Sir Samuel Griffith and the Making of the Australian Constitution

The Hon. Dyson Heydon, AC
Sir Samuel Griffith as Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia