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Ron Castan AM QC
, 1995

by Kate Gollings

gelatin silver photograph, selenium toned (sheet: 60.5 cm x 50.3 cm, image: 50.5 cm x 37.7 cm)

Ron Castan AM QC (1939–1999), barrister, played a leading role in some of the most significant Australian litigation involving the rights of Indigenous people. Founding secretary of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Castan became senior counsel in the Mabo case in 1982, and worked for a decade to shape the High Court decision delivered in 1992. In 1983 he also provided legal advice to applicants in the Tasmanian Dams case. Later, he helped to draft the Wik case, and supported Indigenous people’s objections to amendments to the Native Title Act in 1998. Castan’s parents were Russian Jewish immigrants, and he was also a Jewish community leader, with interests reaching beyond the law to commerce, politics, the arts and philanthropy. Castan died suddenly after surgery, just short of his sixtieth birthday. Paying tribute to his wide and constant efforts to redress injustice, Indigenous politician Aden Ridgeway called Castan the ‘white warrior against racism’. Monash University’s Castan Centre for Human Rights Law is named in his honour.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by Marilyn Darling AC 2001
Accession number: 2001.34