Retirement of Acting Justice Boland​

30 January 2015

The Honourable Acting Justice Roger Boland completes his appointment as an Acting Judge and Acting Deputy President of the Industrial Relations Commission on 31 January 2015.

His Honour served for nearly 15 years with the Commission, including five years as President  At his swearing out ceremony on 19 December 2013 the then Vice President, the Honourable Justice Michael Walton, remarked as follows:

"This sitting of the Industrial Relations Commission marks the retirement of Justice Roger Boland. It is the end of nearly 14 years as a highly respected Judge of the Industrial Court of New South Wales and over five years of outstanding service as the eleventh President of the Industrial Relations Commission in its 111 year history.

I have had the privilege of knowing the last four Presidents of the Commission: Sir Alexander Beattie, the Honourable Bill Fisher QC, the Honourable Lance Wright QC and his Honour, the latter two with whom I have sat.  From Sir Alexander's appointment on 1 September 1966, their collective service to the Commission has spanned 57 years.  All of them are fine judicial officers who discharged the often onerous obligations of the office with dedication and distinction.

Each President witnessed fundamental shifts in the nature and structure of the Australian economy and concomitant changes in industry relations and employment.  Such great change inevitably brought with it adjustments and adaptation in industrial relations or workplace policy and, in the broader sense, the law of employment.  This, in turn, produced very great challenges for the industrial tribunals of this country.

Justice Boland would know this well, as during his long experience in the fields of industrial relations and labour law, his Honour was a leading figure participating in and shaping these developments.

No doubt, much will be said by the speakers who follow about this distinguished history including his Honour's role as a jurist.  However, time dictates that I devote my attention to only one aspect of his Honour's roles – his Presidency.

Like his predecessors, his Honour was required, in this respect, to navigate significant instability in the economy and the resultant impact on employment.  His Honour's judgments in dealing with those issues and, it may be added, occupational health and safety law, were illuminating of the law and its application.  They demonstrated the work of an exceptional judge.

However, the greatest challenge with which his Honour was required to grapple had a somewhat different genesis.  The judgment of the High Court in Australian Workers Union v Commonwealth of Australia (2006) 229 CLR 2 ('the Work Choices Case') was the most seminal judgment concerning labour law since the Boilermakers case.  That judgment not only confirmed the validity of the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Act 2005 but established that and the acceptance the principal constitutional basis for Commonwealth industrial law was the corporations power.

The Work Choices judgment, the consequential concentration of power in Federal industrial law and the subsequent referral by New South Wales of sufficient power to legislate a national industrial relations system for the private sector in late 2000 ushered in significant changes in industrial and employment law in this country and destined his Honour to deal with one of the most dramatic changes in the Commission's history.

The management of that change imposed upon his Honour an incredible administrative burden.  Most significantly, his Honour was required to grapple with the effect on Members of the Commission.

The Members of this Commission, both present and former, owe a debt of gratitude to the President for the manner in which he discharged his duties in this respect.  Not only did his Honour, in the result, bear a disproportionately high case load (the resultant volume of decisions given by his Honour justly resulted in his attracting the affectionate nickname from staff and parties, 'the Bolanator'), but he, nonetheless, managed to assist the Members of his Court through a difficult transition with patience, kindness and compassion.  He did all of this demonstrating fortitude of spirit and determination in the face of what must have seemed at times overwhelming task. 

The former President, Lance Wright, commissioned the centenary publication 'Laying the Foundation of Industrial Justice:  The Presidents of the IRC of NSW 1902 – 1998'.  This eleventh President should content himself in the knowledge that he is no less deserving of a place in that record of excellence than his predecessors.  It may seem insufficient, but his Honour deserves public commendation."​

The Commission wishes his Honour and his wife Denise the very best for a long, happy and rewarding retirement.