Richard Harding interview, 1 April 2015 and 8 April 2015

Dublin Core


Richard Harding interview, 1 April 2015 and 8 April 2015




Emeritus Professor Richard Harding came to the UWA Law School as a Senior Lecturer in 1965 from University College London. He was made Associate Professor in 1973, Professor in 1981 and was Dean of the Law School from 1982 to 1983. Richard became interested in criminal law and has researched and written widely in the areas of law, criminology and penology. He was appointed Director at the Australian Institute of Criminology in Canberra where he was based from 1984 to 1987. From 1988-2000 he founded and was the Director of the Crime Research Centre within the Law School at the University of WA. From 2000-2008 he was Inspector of Custodial Services for Western Australia. Since vacating this position, he has been extensively involved in academic and consultancy work. He is currently Emeritus Professor at the Law School of Western Australia and has been assisting the university to develop a more effective presence in the area of Law and Public Policy.


Harding, Richard


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Julia Wallis


Richard Harding


Claremont, WA


Interview 1: 1 hour, 7 minutes, 13 seconds
Interview 2: 1 hour, 19 minutes, 1 second
Total: 2 hours, 26 minutes, 14 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1
00:00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis
00:00:52 Richard Harding was born in the Bristol area just before World War Two. He studied law at University College London and obtained a scholarship to Columbia University in New York where he obtained a Masters’ degree. Invited to become an Assistant Lecturer at University College London where he taught for nearly 4 years. Invited to apply to UWA Law School by Douglas Payne, the then Dean of the Law School. Richard arrived in Western Australia on 3 February 1965.
00:05:05 The university put him up at the Captain Stirling Hotel for a couple of weeks before he moved to a flat in South Perth. UWA had been in the news in the UK due through the Benn murder case in 1964. Richard’s contract was for 2 years but soon had no thoughts of returning to the UK because the university provided a supportive, friendly and collegial environment. He got to know a wide cross section of people across the whole university both professional and non-professional. Within days of his arrival, he was sampling the delights of the Festival of Perth. At that time, the UWA Law School was highly regarded by the judiciary and the profession – much more so than had been the case in London.
00:10:39 Richard was teaching Conflict of Law within 3 weeks of his arrival. This subject had a very strong Australian Constitutional law overlay. Richard put together the student Case Book which was the 600-700 page textbook for the course. He realised Australian law was different to English law.
00:15:13 A week after his arrival, the Law Summer School was held. Many luminaries in the profession attended such as Sir John Kerr, Sir Zelman Cowan and Sir Geoffrey Saw. This made Richard feel that he was in touch with what was going on both in WA and further afield. Within 6 months of his arrival, he attended a very important Commonwealth Law conference in Sydney and met the criminologist Gordon Hawkins who sparked his interest in this field. The Law School was located in dongas behind Geography. At that time the Law School only had 7 full-time teachers and relied on part time visiting teachers from the professional including Sir Francis Burt, John Toohey and Sir Ronald Wilson. Douglas Payne wanted to professionalise the teaching staff but did not want to marginalise the legal profession from the Law School.
00:24:00 Professor Douglas Payne persuaded the university to commit to a new building and moved into the new Law School, designed by Gus Ferguson, in about 1967 or 1968. The old premises could not cope with the increase in the student body and teaching staff. The main university campus was concentrated around Winthrop Hall. University House was located near the present Octagon Theatre. Everyone went here to socialise. Richard was secretary of University House in the late 1960s. He was also secretary of the Staff Association. In about 1972 he was elected as a staff representative to the Senate and was a non-professorial representative on the Professorial Board. He was deeply involved in university life.
00:28:27 Each Faculty controlled some research funding. Richard was granted some money from the Law School in about 1967 to research the use of lethal force by police. This led him down the path of further studies into human rights, criminal law and human justice issues. Richard was living in a university house in Myers Street, Nedlands in 1966 when a policeman shot a young man dead nearby. Penguin published his book, Police Killings in Australia, in 1970. It caused some controversy. Richard continued to study this aspect of the law for the next 5 years. In 1971, he researched the use of police lethal force while on study leave at the University of Chicago and did a similar study with students in Toronto. Later, he studied fire arms in the Australian community and the events at Port Arthur in 1996.
00:33:43 The University trusted the heads of department to use seed money wisely. Richard doesn’t think he would have had access to this sort of funding in the UK. Richard suffered some personal attacks from certain people in the police force but he was supported by his friends in academia. Richard was not teaching criminal law at this stage. He taught industrial or labour law. This was a new course. The future Attorney-General of Western Australia, Joe Berinson, was one of his pupils. In the early years, Richard was younger than many of his students. The Law School attempted to keep up with changes in society with these new courses.
00:40:14 Richard was very close to his first groups of students. He had a holiday on Rottnest with his future wife and some students. He still attends the annual reunion of the first class he taught. Three female students out of a class of 26 graduated in his first year. Law is now female-dominated. Richard was part of the Arts Discussion Group (a dining club) at University House. Dining club members included the librarian, Leonard Jolley, a mathematician, a geographer, a geologist, a psychologist, a historian, people from the English department and occasionally a scientist. The group met monthly for an evening meal. Richard lectured in the Arts Department. The Staff Association was active. Later the Credit Union was set up. Management were involved with the life of the university.
00:45:38 Richard played squash with university people at Kings Park Squash Club. Richard’s social life changed after he was married to Alison and had children. The married staff set up a University Babysitting Club where time was traded for a babysitter but no money changed hands.
00:49:08 Several people at the Law School came from the UK. Richard recruited a former student from London to teach contract law. He also interviewed Anthony Dickey on behalf of the Dean. The staff made the system work for them. Today it is a different world. Other faculties did similar things. It was a pragmatic way to deal with the problems of a developing university but the top positions were open to a genuine contest.
00:55:30 Richard came on a two year contract but felt comfortable in Perth and soon found that there were opportunities here. After he met his future wife, it became clear that he was going to stay in Perth. The study leave or sabbatical leave arrangements were important to him. Sabbatical leave was not so readily available in the UK. In 1970, he went to Bristol University and then to Chicago. By now, he was launched on a public career path. He was elected on to the Law Reform Commission of WA in 1962 or 1963 working with David Malcolm who later became Chief Justice. In 1975, he was involved with the Australian Law Reform Commission. Justice Michael Kirby was Chair. Later that year, he went onto the board of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It suited his interest in public administration.
00:59:36 Eric Edwards, the Dean of the Law School, asked Richard to put together a public lecture series to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UWA Law School in 1977 . Invited speakers included John Toohey, Billy Snedden and Bob Hawke. Sir Lawrence Jackson, the Chief Justice and then Chancellor of the University supported the celebrations. The Law School had changed - there were more staff and students but the teaching method was still lectures and tutorials. The criminal law book produced as a text by Eric Edwards was used around Australia in the “Code” States, i.e. Queensland, Tasmania and WA (as opposed to the common law States of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia). Mining law was being taught by about the mid-1970s.
01:04:21 Murdoch Law School was opened in the about 1975. It was mooted as to whether UWA wished to have a presence in the southern suburbs but it was agreed that a separate institution should be set up.
Interview 2
00:00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis
00:00:45 Richard was made a full Professor in 1981. He had developed new courses at UWA and applied for the position of Associate Professor in 1973 based on his research and publications and was successful. He had built a profile inside and outside of UWA. In 1979 he published Outside Interference: The Politics of Australian Broadcasting. By this time he was involved in policy relating to gun control and use. He led a research project on gun ownership in WA funded by monies from the UWA Law Faculty. Then he applied for a national grant from the Criminology Research Council and did a national survey on gun ownership. Senator Lionel Murphy the Attorney-General was very supportive. This led to the publication by UWA Press in 1981 of his book entitled Firearms and Violence in Australian Life: An Examination of Gun Ownership and Use in Australia. It was a pivotal book on this topic. In 1981, Richard convened the first national fire arms conference that took place at UWA, the Australian Institute of Criminology in Canberra and the Sydney Institute of Criminology.
00:08:06 Some on the Senate felt he was not closely enough in contact with the legal profession but he had support in other areas. At that time, he believes he was one of two professors at the Law School. He taught some criminology and the law school was slowly moving to encompass subjects hitherto not considered part and parcel of a law degree.
00:11:59 Anthony Dickey was Dean from 1979 to 1981. He was a good administrator and people person. Richard became Dean in 1982 and worked with the legal profession to acquire grants for visiting scholars, lecture series and prizes. An entrepreneur who was going to fund the Chair in Mining Law was unfortunately arrested before this was made official. Mining law is now a speciality of the UWA Law School.
00:15:13 In 1983, there was a Federal election and Bob Hawke became Prime Minister. The founding director of the Australian Institute of Criminology had resigned and the new government opened up the applications again. Richard applied for this position and was accepted. His application was bolstered by the fact that he had recently presented the John Barry Memorial Lecture in Melbourne on gun control. He resigned from the Dean’s position after only two years in the job. He took unpaid leave from UWA. The new job was interesting and stimulating and opened many doors plus he became deeply involved with the United Nations. Unfortunately his family didn’t settle in Canberra and he returned to teaching at UWA in 1988.
00:20:58 When he returned to UWA, he negotiated with the State Attorney-General and the Premier to set up a crime research centre to organise all the data from the different government agencies and to be able to examine whether public policy was working. They received a capital grant from the State and set up at UWA to produce meaningful crime statistics. Using the data they could do also pursue specific research projects such as Aboriginal contact with the criminal justice system. The Crime Research Centre started work in early 1988 and ceased to operate 26 years later in late 2014. It was a successful and enjoyable centre and Richard remained head until 2000.
00:26:56 Richard had also retained his international links. In the 1980s, he did some consultancy work with the United Nations on criminal justice policy. In 1985, he attended the Seventh UN Congress relating to crime prevention and control in Milan. He was involved with two important conventions one being the Beijing rules on the Administration of Juvenile Justice and the Charter of Victims’ Rights. Richard was able to bring some of this experience into his teaching at the Law School and to bring visiting people to the Law School. He helped to develop a unit in Corporate Crime as part of the LLM (Master of Laws). By now, second degrees fine tuning professional skills were desirable and necessary. Later a Masters of Criminal Justice was developed in the Law School comprising 14 units.
00:31:11 Universities started to realise the benefits of being known for their research. Up until now, the UWA Law School had not really understood the importance of research. The Crime Research was doing the bulk of the research. The Centre forged ties with Mathematics and Computing and developed a computerised system to analyse data. A huge safe was purchased to store the data tapes. The Australian Bureau of Statistics was not at first much interested in crime statistics. This has since changed. At that time there was no overall picture of criminal behaviour across Australia. The Crime Research Centre at UWA took a couple of years to organise the criminal stats from WA. Then they began to do crime mapping. They published an analysis of road rage in a Swedish journal long before it got talked about.
00:44:56 The Centre employed many different experts to analyse the data. Data was also analysed to research domestic violence. Some of the law students used the Centre for their PhD studies. In hindsight, they should have had more of these. The Centre also taught a course in the Arts department that was very successful. Alcohol and drugs have been a factor in crime research for a long time.
00:49:06 When Richard left as director of the Crime Research Centre at UWA in 2000 a new director took over. Richard felt that their support base from the external agencies was not so strong after he left. The data collection dropped off a bit and the Centre’s relevance was diminished. UWA tightened up on all their research centres and attempted to control their autonomy and their funding. In Richard’s day, agreements were made with a handshake. From about 2000 onwards, UWA began to charge the research centres large fees. Good staff left for other opportunities. The Law School was going through its own changes and did not fully understand the value of a research centre. Earlier Deans had understood that the Centre was getting competitive ARC research grants and that the prestige would reflect on them as well. It was claimed that the Centre was bankrupt and it was terminated. Nowadays there is nobody organising the crime statistics for Western Australia - let alone collect and integrate them.
00:56:44 Richard became Inspector of Custodial Services in 2000 and served for 8 years. In 1997, he published Private Prisons and Public Accountability. He advised the State Government on private prisons.
01:02:41 Richard negotiated academic leave as part of his contract with Custodial Services in order to keep up with developments and do some teaching at UWA. He used his leave to work at Keele University and twice at Cambridge University. By now, he was an Emeritus Professor at UWA and teaching the criminal justice course which he taught every second year over an 11 year period. UWA is now in a corporate phase which reflects trends across Australia.
01:07:24 When he took on the job as Inspector of Custodial Services, Richard resigned from UWA but retained links with the university which meant that it was quite seamless for him to return. Richard prefers to teach in a traditional manner and see his students face-to-face.
01:09:28 In 2012, Richard went to the Free University of Amsterdam where the National Crime Research Institute is based. He became involved with the Association for the Prevention of Torture before he left Custodial Services in 2008. He did consultancy work in Britain with a group that was running private prisons; for the Australian Human Rights Commission and other Australian government groups.
01:14:45 Australia has tended to view the northern European countries and particularly Holland as being world leaders in area of prison rehabilitation. Universities can be the link in bringing innovative ideas to the attention of government.



Harding, Richard, “Richard Harding interview, 1 April 2015 and 8 April 2015,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024,