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Rob O’Connor joined the Friends in 1989 and has been a highly valued committee member for fifteen years, although he retired from active involvement in 2021, Rob will always be a cherished Friend.


Rob was born in York Western Australia and graduated with a Bachelor of Law (First Class Honours) from the Australian National University in 1974. He is one of our State’s most respected barristers and in December 1989 was made a Queen’s Counsel in recognition of his high standing in the legal profession. His superb legal knowledge has been put to good use during his time on the Friends Committee. He redrafted our new Constitution and has given us pro bono legal advice on many issues over the years. Among the most outstanding of these would be his work on our Maud Sholl bequest. Although the gift was left to the Friends nearly forty years ago it is thanks to Rob’s skill and advocacy that the conditions of administering this major bequest have been made more efficient.


Rob has long had a fascination for history and has written many papers and articles over the years for our Newsletter and other publications on a variety of subjects. His interests in naval and military history and his knowledge of early 19th century warfare is renowned and reflected in some of these pieces.


For many years Rob has been a member of the State Records Office Advisory Commission (SRAC), and is a life member of the Francis Burt Law Education Centre. Among other interests, he has been closely involved with the Nelson Society and the Law History Society of WA, and is a long term member of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society, the National Trust, and the Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL). For the past nine years he has been closely involved in the annual series of lectures named for Lieutenant Frederick Bell VC. A feature film based on Rob’s biography of Lawrence Dominic McCarthy VC is currently in production.


A strong sense of justice and ethics underpins Rob’s life and interaction with people. He was one of the barristers who appeared for sufferers of Mesothelioma in the successful 1988 ‘Wittenoom Asbestos’ case, and he has provided his services free of charge to represent refugees in the High Court. He has endowed annual prizes at every one of the Western Australian universities and has been a board member of the South Perth Hospital and a long standing member of Rotary.


His list of achievements and honours are varied and many, but it is Rob’s countless, mostly unheralded, acts of kindness, care, and compassion which are evidence of his gentleness and dedication to others.


The Friends of the Battye Library (Inc.) would like show our appreciation of Rob’s commitment and support by listing him as a Gem of Time – a list that will last to acknowledge the contribution of outstanding men and women to the recording, collection, and preservation of Western Australia’s history.

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