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Decisions of the High Court

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The interpretation of the Constitution through the decisions of the High Court is one of the main means by which important changes can be made to the way the Constitution operates.

From its beginnings in 1903, the High Court played a crucial role in determining the balance of powers between the Commonwealth and the States. Up to 1920, the court interpreted Commonwealth powers narrowly, seeing the Commonwealth and the States as separate and equal. This view was overturned by The Engineers Case, which is seen as a turning point in Australian Federalism. It produced an opinion by the High Court giving the widest interpretation of Commonwealth powers and setting a precedent for cases that have followed.

To date, there have been only two High Court Justices from Western Australia:

  • Sir Ronald Wilson, AC, KBE ( 1979 - 1989 )
  • Hon John Toohey, AC ( 1987-1998 )