John Robert Kerr was Governor-General of Australia from 1974 until 1977.
He was born in Balmain, in Sydney on September 14, 1914. He was admitted to the NSW Bar in 1938, after attending Fort Street High School and Sydney University.
Kerr became a King’s Counsel in 1953. In his early years as a lawyer he had a large industrial practice and developed close links with Labor Party figures. He resigned from the ALP in 1956.
In 1966, Kerr was appointed a Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. He came to public attention in 1969, when he jailed Clarrie O’Shea, the Victorian Secretary of the Tramways Unions, for contempt of court.
Kerr was appointed Chief Justice of New South Wales in 1972 by the Liberal government of Sir Robert Askin. In August 1973, he was approached by Prime Minister Whitlam about appointment as Governor-General. The appointment was announced on February 27, 1974 and he took up the position on July 11, 1974, coincidentally also Whitlam’s birthday.
Following the Dismissal, public reaction to Kerr was generally hostile. He announced his decision to retire at the end of 1977. Early the following year, the Fraser government announced that Kerr would be appointed Ambassador to UNESCO, but hostile public reaction caused Kerr to relinquish the appointment.
Kerr lived out most of the rest of his life in England. He died on March 24, 1991, at the age of 76.
Archived Posts on Sir John Kerr
- Dear Prime Minister… March 12, 1974
- Kerr’s First Letter to Sir Martin Charteris (Palace Letters) August 15, 1974
- The First Letter From Martin Charteris To Sir John Kerr (Palace Letters) September 2, 1974
- Sir Garfield Barwick’s Advice To Sir John Kerr November 10, 1975
- Sir John Kerr’s Letter Of Dismissal November 11, 1975
- Kerr’s Statement Of Reasons November 11, 1975
- Lunchtime On November 11: The Media Reacts To The Calling Of A Half Senate Election November 11, 1975
- Kerr’s Proclamation Dissolving Parliament November 11, 1975
- Sir John Was Wrong: The Age November 12, 1975
- Vice-Regal Notice – November 11 November 12, 1975
- Kerr’s 1976 Australia Day Message January 26, 1976
- Kerr Speaks Of The Queen And Young People September 1, 1976
- Kerr’s Retirement in London (Palace Letters) July 19, 1977
- Sir John Kerr Drunk At The Melbourne Cup November 1, 1977
- Fraser Appoints Kerr Ambassador To UNESCO February 9, 1978
- Kerr Quits UNESCO Ambassadorship; Fraser’s Parliamentary Statement March 2, 1978
- Il Dismissale: Max Gillies On The Dismissal September 1, 1983
- Sir John Kerr Breaks His Silence And Talks To Geoffrey Robertson November 11, 1987
- Sir John Kerr Dies, 76 March 25, 1991
- Keating On Kerr April 9, 1991
- Margaret Whitlam: The CIA Might Have Been Involved April 28, 1991
- Whitlam: The Coup Twenty Years After November 8, 1995
- Twentieth Anniversary: Maintain Your Rage And Enthusiasm November 11, 1995
- 20 Years On: Four Corners Remembers The Dismissal November 11, 1995
- Whitlam Comments On Barwick’s Letter To Kerr July 8, 1997
- Brandis: Kerr “A Good And Decent Man Demonised” November 10, 2000
- Buckingham Palace Regrets March 10, 2001
- Whitlam On His Appointment Of Kerr March 11, 2002
- Whitlam Says Kerr Needed Frequent Drying Out October 31, 2002
- Howard Defends Kerr November 11, 2005
- Cutler Advised Kerr To Warn Whitlam December 21, 2005
- Alexandra Hasluck: How One Strong Woman Changed The Course Of Australian History January 2, 2010
- How The Queen Heard About Whitlam’s Dismissal April 12, 2011
- Mason: The Third Man In Whitlam’s Downfall August 24, 2012
- Mason Disputes Details But Largely Confirms Kerr’s Account Of Their Discussions August 27, 2012