UNSW's 70th Anniversary 


Law first intake

1971 UNSW Law first opened with 219 undergraduate students studying under founding Dean, Emeritus Professor John Halden "Hal" Wootten AC QC. One year earlier, in 1970, Wootten also established the Aboriginal Legal Service, becoming its first president. In 1976, Australia’s first Indigenous law graduate, Dr Pat O’Shane, completed her degree at UNSW.  Like many of her fellow UNSW Law alumni, Dr O’Shane went on to be a trailblazer in the fields of law and politics.

Today Now ranked the 14th Law School in the world (2019 QS World University Rankings) UNSW Law is also a leader in diversity, with 17,807 alumni practicing in 92 countries across the world. Notable alumni include David Gonski AO, Justice David Wong, Peter Garrett, and Gabrielle Upton, among many other leaders in the field. Since Dr O’Shane’s landmark graduation in 1976, UNSW Law now has 108 alumni who identify as First Nations People, many of which have gone on to become trailblazers in their field including Terri Janke, Damien Miller, Megan Davis, Bob Bellear. 

Alumni Awards

1972 The inaugural Alumni Awards take place, with just three winners (Bob Hay MSc ’72, Patrick Wilson BA ’72, and Judith Miller BA ’71, DipEd ’72). “I remember most vividly the long applause when my name was announced during the awards ceremony. It really was a most extraordinary experience,” said Bob Hay, awarded for his time as a counsellor and student at UNSW, during which he was a stalwart supporter for our early cohorts of international students. More recently, during the 2018 Alumni Awards, he was also recognised for his crucial support of gay and lesbian students whom he counselled during a period where homosexuality had not yet been decriminalised.

Today 47 years later, UNSW continues to hold this annual awards ceremony to celebrate and honour UNSW alumni who have outstanding professional achievements, made major contributions to the community, or demonstrated exceptional leadership in their field. Previous winners including Rebel Wilson, Lucy Turnbull, Turia Pitt, Mike Cannon-Brookes, and Scott Farquhar. To date there have been more than 220 Alumni Awards presented. More on the 2019 winners here.


Clean water research

1977 UNSW researchers led by Professor Chris Fell developed and patented an innovative membrane filter made of hollow nylon fibres that transformed the way to treat wastewater. This membrane removed harmful molecules and pathogens and, importantly, worked at low pressure. This made water treatment more affordable and eventually became the industry standard. Now every time you turn on a tap for a glass of clean drinking water, chances are it has been treated using UNSW’s membrane filtration technology.

Today We continue to face challenges of water quality and scarcity across the globe with the leading UNSW Global Water Institute. Drawing on water expertise from seven faculties and 13 specialist centres across the University, the GWI is the nation’s most advanced water knowledge hub dedicated to tackling global water issues. We are also forging collaborative relationships with our dynamic alumni. A new impactful partnership between UNSW and alumna Professor Teresa Akenga with the University of Eldoret in Kenya, is rolling out a short course in transnational water management across Africa. This presents a unique opportunity for water management professionals across the continent of Africa (?) to share knowledge, evaluate challenges and explore culturally and geographically appropriate solutions.


All photos have been provided by UNSW Archives.