Supreme Court

The Honourable Sir Philip Whistler Street, KCMG, K St J

Eighth Chief Justice of NSW
28 January 1925 - 31 January 1934

Philip Whistler Street, born on 9 August 1863, was educated at Sydney Grammar School and at the University of Sydney (BA 1883). He was admitted to the Bar on 25 August 1886. Two years later, at Toorak, Victoria, he married Belinda Maud Poolman. The couple had three children. On 24 July 1906 he was appointed an Acting Judge of the Supreme Court and, when Mr Justice WG Walker resigned in February 1907, took his place as Judge in Bankruptcy and Probate. After sitting in various jurisdictions, he became Chief Judge in Equity from 1918. In that year he was appointed a Royal Commissioner to inquire into the conviction and sentence in 1916, for sedition and other offences, of 12 sympathisers with the Industrial Workers of the World organisation.

On Sir William Cullen's resignation in 1925, PW Street was the senior Puisne Judge and, for the first time since the appointment of Alfred Stephen, the government decided to promote the senior judge as Chief Justice. He became Chief Justice on 28 January 1925 and occupied that office until his 70th birthday in 1933. He was appointed KCMG in 1928.

He was a Fellow of the Senate of the University of Sydney for nearly twenty years and Deputy Chancellor in 1926. He was chairman of trustees of Sydney Grammar School from 1912 to 1929. His work as a trustee of the National Art Gallery and of the Australian Museum furthered his support for education and the arts.

Sir Philip Street was Lieutenant-Governor from 1930 and administered the State for lengthy periods between 1934 and 1937. He died on 11 September 1938.

The appointment of Philip Whistler Street as Chief Justice of New South Wales in 1925 established the tradition of elevating a senior judge to the position of Chief Justice. Until then, previous Chief Justices had been directly involved in the legislative work of government in addition to their judicial work. Street presided over the Supreme Court during a period of great turmoil which arose out of the legal, commercial and social problems created by the First World War and the Great Depression. He was also involved in matters of a constitutional nature, including attempts to introduce legislation to abolish the Upper House of Parliament and the dismissal of the Lang Government.