Class of 1970

John is the youngest of the Chaney dynasty, and one of the most hard-working which is impressive in the context of the family’s formidable work ethic. John, in spite of having climbed to the top of his profession, has that lack of ego typical of a great Aquinian. Like his brothers, he did well in the classroom and on the sports field. He captained the First Eighteen, the Athletics Team and the Second Eleven in cricket. A “heady point winner” of the debating team, hewas also a CUO in the cadets. He left in 1970 as Captain of the School and made the farewell speech at the end of the year Speech Night. He says being a boarder in his last year helped him when his father Sir Frederick Charles Chaney moved to Darwin as Minister for the Northern Territory.

After graduating in Law from UWA in 1976, John became a partner at Northmore Hale Davy and Leake, later Minter Ellison and Co in 1980 and stayed fourteen years before joining the Independent Bar in 1994. He specialised in commercial litigation, planning and administrative law, and medical negligence. In 2004, John was appointed as judge in the District Court, and shortly afterwards became one of two inaugural deputy presidents of the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) in 2005, a new jurisdiction which saw the streamlining of 80 different decision-makers into one overarching Tribunal. This new jurisdiction covered a wide range of issues: planning cases, from single houses to massive commercial developments; professional and vocational regulation and disciplinary proceedings; building and strata titles disputes; and guardianship cases where the tribunal took the responsibility of protecting vulnerable people. This period of his career cemented John’s reputation as one of the leading lights of the legal profession in West Australia.

Continuing to climb he became President, SAT and a justice of the Supreme Court in 2009. Throughout his career, his love of cricket stayed with him and he toured internationally with a team of legal eagles known as “The Stragglers” playing with fellow devotees across the world.

He has, over the years, sat on boards of not for profits such as the College of Optometrists, based in Melbourne and currently serves as Chair of the Piddingdon Society which fosters collegiality and mentoring amongst young lawyers. He was also President of the Law Society in 1991 and sat on its Council for ten years. After fourteen years as a judge, he retired and now practices as a mediator and arbitrator at Francis Burt Chambers.

Few in the legal profession of West Australia have John’s keen eye for detail or his ability to unpick complex cases. John remembers back to his farewell speech at Aquinas College where after encouraging the next generation of students to make the most of their time he finished by saying: “So do your best and I hope for your sakes that when your time comes, it’ll be as difficult for you as it is for me to say “Goodbye Aquinas”.