Dr Duncan Memorial Scholarship Fund reaches target

Dr George Duncan

The tragic and suspect death of a newly appointed lecturer to the Adelaide Law School in May 1972 was the catalyst for gay law reform in South Australia and Australia. Dr George Duncan’s drowning in the Torrens shocked South Australia.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of MLC Murray Hill’s private member’s Bill decriminalising homosexuality, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG unveiled a portrait of Duncan, now standing proudly in the Adelaide Law School foyer. The unveiling was attended by the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, former members of the judiciary, the legal profession, leading members of the community and staff of the Adelaide Law School. Professor John Williams, then Dean of Adelaide Law School, said the event was an important one in the life of the School. The shocking death of Duncan is a reminder of the importance of laws that do not discriminate. The value of celebrating and encouraging diversity is expressed in the memorial to Duncan.

Judge Kirby announced that at Professor Williams' instigation, a scholarship would be established in Duncan’s name for students in financial need, who demonstrate a commitment to LGBTIQ issues.

Six years later, after funding an annual scholarship, Professor Williams was pleased to announce at a morning tea to commemorate the occasion, that the Fund had reached its endowment target of $100,000, ensuring the scholarship’s status in perpetuity. 

In his address, Professor Williams said three things influenced his decision to establish the Fund:

  1. The State Government commissioning the South Australian Law Reform Institute to review LGBTIQ legislation
  2. The 40-year anniversary of Murray Hill’s legislation
  3. There being no photo of Duncan in the Law School
Prof Peter Høj AC, Vice-Chancellor; Prof Carol Johnson; Prof John Williams; Judge Charlotte Kelly; Mr Elijah Caon; The Hon Cathy Branson, Chancellor; Mr Jon Gorvett

Professor Peter Høj AC, Vice-Chancellor and President; Professor Carol Johnson; Professor John Williams; Judge Charlotte Kelly; Mr Elijah Caon; The Hon Cathy Branson, Chancellor; Dr Jon Gorvett, Deputy Chief Executive, Department of the Premier and Cabinet.

Professor Williams specifically thanked the donors who had contributed to the Fund, and the fundraising committee who supported him throughout this journey: Judge Gordon Barrett, Judge Charlotte Kelly, Professor Carol Johnson, Mr Tim Reeves and Mr James Litt. He made special mention of key donors: State Government, Judge Gordon Barrett QC, Mr John Emerson, Judge Margaret Nyland AM and the Don Dunstan Foundation.

While most scholarship winners were sadly unable to attend the morning tea because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the inaugural recipient, Adelaide-based Elijah Caon (2016) was able to attend. The 2018 recipient, Louis Guglietti, sent a testimonial saying ‘being awarded the scholarship in recognition of his commitment to the community meant he was able to reduce hours and focus on the things that mattered most: his study and his community.’

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