Vale Robin Sharwood

The Trinity College community is deeply saddened by the passing of Professor Robin Sharwood AM, fourth Warden of Trinity College.

His appointment as Warden by the Council of Trinity College in December 1964 was significant on a number of levels. The College’s third Warden, Ronald Cowan, had died while still in office on 26 June, prompting the unforeseen circumstances of finding a replacement. When Robin Sharwood assumed office almost a year later, on 1 June 1965, he was just 33 years old.

Despite his relatively young age, he had already established himself with an impressive academic career. He was educated at Wesley College and the University of Melbourne, where he graduated with First Class Honours in Law and was awarded the Supreme Court Prize in 1954.

In 1955, he was awarded the Walter Perry Johnson Graduate Research Fellowship in Law at the University of California, where he earned his Master in Law. This was followed by a year as Peter Brooks Saltonstall Scholar at Harvard University, before teaching for a year at the Law School of the London School of Economics. He returned to Melbourne in 1958, taking up a position as Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Melbourne, and as Senior Tutor at Ormond College.

With the support of a Fulbright Scholarship, he completed his Scientiae Juridical Doctor through Harvard in 1962.

Aged 30 in 1962, he was appointed to a Chair in Law at the Australian National University, a position he held until taking up the Wardenship at Trinity.

As Warden, he oversaw the transition of Trinity from a male-only College to co-residential one, a change that would come into effect the year following his retirement as Warden in 1973, to take up the role as Inaugural Executive Director of the Victorian Law Foundation.

The College's former Women's Hostel, Janet Clark Hall, had become an independent institution in 1961. Trinity itself would wrestle with the decision to move towards co-residency under Professor Sharwood's leadership, as well as celebrating the auspicious occasion of its centenary in 1972. In many ways, his Wardenship would straddle a period of transition and change for the College.

As a Warden, Robin Sharwood was firm but fair, and universally admired for these qualities. At the point of his retirement, he wrote that his ‘years here have been extraordinarily rewarding … a wonderful and unforgettable experience for me'.

He would reflect on the changing nature of collegiate life, the less structured student body, the various “traditions” that relied upon an earlier corporate sense of College for their success that were now diminishing.

‘It was a change of style,’ he observed, and one that in many respects mirrored the changing social values outside the College environment. Nonetheless, College life at Trinity was full and rich, albeit ‘more fluid, more spontaneous’. It remained an orderly community where ‘the need for applied discipline has markedly diminished’.

Despite moving on to other roles and later career successes, Robin Sharwood remained keenly interested in the affairs of College for the next 40 years.

Post-Trinity, Robin Sharwood pursued a full and engaging legal career. Following his retirement as Warden in 1973, he took up the role as Inaugural Executive Director of the Victorian Law Foundation. Among his many roles were as Chairman of the Victorian Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1976–77), and as Member of the (Victorian) Attorney-General’s Advisory Committee on the Criminal Justice System (1979–82).

He was a leading Anglican layman, and was a lay Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral (1967–2001), and Chancellor of the Anglican Dioceses of Wangaratta (1974–99) and Ballarat (1995–2002).

For his many services, he was recognised in the 2000 Australia Day Honours as a Member

14 Apr 2015
Category: People