Laying down the law
Vice-Chancellor Louis Matheson appointed Professor David Derham, from the University of Melbourne, as Dean of Law in 1963. Derham quickly hired Louis Waller, another colleague from Melbourne, and together they built the law school. The curriculum would be focused on strengthening the links between theory and practice, with an emphasis on examining legal case studies.
Waller had worked with Derham at Melbourne University, and shared his passion for practical, innovative teaching. Born in Poland to Jewish parents, Waller and his family escaped Europe to Australia in 1938 before the Holocaust. He studied law at the University of Melbourne and at Oxford. In 1964, he was appointed to the Sir Leo Cussen Chair of Law. When Derham returned to Melbourne, Waller took up the deanship until 1970.
Waller’s distinguished career led to many top appointments. He has been chairman of several committees and commissions, including the Victorian Law Reform Commission. His interests and innovations in the field of medical law have led to positions on many committees for IVF, infertility and medical ethics.
But Waller’s biggest impact at Monash was on his students, who left his classes inspired by his passion for the law. ‘Louis Waller is the best teacher I ever had, anywhere, anytime,’ declared former student Julian Burnside.
Waller retired in 2000 and remains an emeritus professor with the Faculty of Law.