OBITUARY: News Weekly
Australia loses great champion of the unborn - Charles Hugh Francis AM QC RFD (1924-2009)
, September 5, 2009
Charles Hugh Francis AM QC RFD
(July 15, 1924 - August 14, 2009).Distinguished barrister, former parliamentarian and long-time champion of the unborn, Charles Francis AM QC RFD, died at 12 midday, Friday, August 14, aged 85.
|Charles Francis AM QC RFD|
Charles grew up in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges in the township of Belgrave, where his father was the local doctor. Charles was sent to board at Camberwell Grammar and then to Melbourne Grammar.
After leaving school, he joined the RAAF and served as an air-gunner during World War II. He received a commission and, after the war, rose to the rank of group captain, later serving as deputy judge advocate general.
After the war, as a returned serviceman, Charles studied law, arts and commerce at Melbourne University and graduated in all three. He was admitted to the bar in 1948.
In 1953, Charles set sail for England and met his future wife Babette after she boarded the ship in Bombay. Within a fortnight they were engaged to be married. The wedding took place not long afterwards at the Brompton Oratory in London.
Because of the then White Australia policy and Babette's Indian birth, Charles could only initially obtain a five-year entry visa into Australia for his new bride, who has now been here for over 55 years. Charles and Babette later named their Toorak family home Stratheden
after the P&O liner on which they met.
Charles continued a distinguished legal career at the Victorian Bar, which eventually spanned 53 years before he retired from practice at the age of 78. He took silk in 1969, was a member of the Bar Council and served as chairman in 1987-88.
Current chairman of the Victorian Bar, John Digby QC, said of Charles: "The span and success of his practice was enormous, from the Royal Commission into the activities of the Communist Party in 1949, through 46 murder trials, the HG&R Nominees case in 1997 (that set major precedents in contracts, mortgages, guarantees, sureties, professional negligence and indemnity insurance), to a large personal injuries verdict in March and a settlement (of) over a million dollars in August 2002, shortly before retirement."
Charles was also deeply interested in politics. In 1976 he was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly as the Liberal member for Caulfield. However, his parliamentary career lasted barely three years. He became disillusioned with the behaviour of the Liberals and refused to compromise on matters of principle. Charles and a fellow Liberal MP, Doug Jennings, criticised their government, under long-serving premier Sir Rupert "Dick" Hamer, for allegedly covering up corrupt land deals by the Housing Commission of Victoria. Charles thereafter aligned himself with the National Party in which he played an active part until the end of his life.
Marriage and family were central to Charles's life. His daughter Prue recalls: "He died happily anticipating his 19th grandchild and two more great-grandchildren all due to be born in the coming months. He greeted the birth of each child with great joy and was a very proud father of eight. My father was a hands-on father in an era when many men were not particularly involved with their children. When we were young, he seemed to prepare a hot breakfast for us, 365 days of the year."
In retirement, Charles was in great demand as a speaker. He was a fine raconteur and loved to entertain his audiences with a story or a joke. He continued to write articles on aspects of law, history and human rights, with his very last article appearing in News Weekly
on the very day he died. During the last three years of his life, Charles suffered declining health as a result of cancer. Despite a long illness and increasing disability, he remained remarkably cheerful.
Denise Cameron, president of Pro-Life Victoria, paid tribute to the prominent role he played in the pro-life movement. She said: "Charles was a great supporter of his fellow pro-lifers, keenly interested and encouraging of all they did for unborn children, unselfish in the legal assistance, speeches and advice he gave over many years.
"Two lasting images of Charles were of him, weakened by illness, but cheerfully attending campaign meetings against the legalisation of abortion last year and of him writing opinion pieces while hooked up in hospital to intravenous feeding."
In the months before he died, Charles wrote a series of authoritative articles warning his fellow Australians about the dangers to religious freedom from misguided equal opportunity, racial and religious vilification laws and charters of rights. He believed that citizens' freedoms were best protected, not by increasing the powers of our equal opportunity and human rights bureaucracies, but by re-discovering Australia's Christian heritage.
In 1995, he addressed the Christian Lawyers' Society, Melbourne, observing: "We often ask ourselves today why we have no great leaders. May I suggest the greatest leaders are not produced by political systems but rather by a deep and abiding Christian philosophy? We fail to honour - and risk forgetting - our Christian heritage at our peril.
"We need to remember God and our Christian heritage with humility and gratitude. For a little more than 200 years we have, as compared with the rest of the world, indeed been 'the lucky country'; but if we as a nation fail to serve God and obey his commandments, our civilisation must inevitably wither and fail." (Reproduced in News Weekly
, March 1, 2008).Obituary written by John Ballantyne, editor of News Weekly.
Charles Francis, "Why Australia's Christian heritage matters", News Weekly
, March 1, 2008.