29/04/2020 - 15:53

Terry O'Connor passes away

29/04/2020 - 15:53


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Prominent Perth barrister, company director and football administrator Terry O’Connor passed away last weekend at the age of 82.

Terry O'Connor passes away
Terry O'Connor passed away over the weekend, age 82. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Prominent Perth barrister, company director and football administrator Terry O'Connor passed away last weekend at the age of 82.

Mr O’Connor graduated from the University of Western Australia in 1961, working as a lawyer before being made a Queen's Counsel in 1987. His legal aptitude and sharp intellect led him to serve as commissioner of the WA Supreme Court and also as chair of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Western Australia from 1987 to 2003.

In the business sector, his roles including chairing ASX-listed mining services company Ausdrill (now Perenti Global) and major insurance broker EBM.

Alongside Mr O’Connor’s legal and business activities, his other field of interest was football, where he led an equally distinguished career as chairman of the West Coast Eagles (1990 to 1993) and as an AFL commissioner between 1993 and 2000.  

During his time at the AFL commission, Mr O’Connor was appointed chairman of the taskforce charged with developing football in NSW and the Australian Capital Territory.

West Coast chief executive officer Trevor Nisbett said Mr O’Connor gave critical strategic guidance when the club was still in its infancy, going on to win its first premiership in 1992.

“Without the influence of people like Terry, who assumed responsibility at a challenging time in the club’s formative years we would not be the club we are today,” he said.

"We are deeply indebted to him and offer our deepest condolences to Annabel, Simon, Dimity and the extended O’Connor family.”

EBM executive chairman Alan Bishop was a lifelong friend and business associate and offered the following statement upon hearing of his passing:

“Terry was one of life’s true gentlemen – a conscientious, devoted family man who never forgot who his friends were,” Mr Bishop said.

“A savvy, clever business person and an eminent lawyer who enthusiastically cherished the magnificent game of Football.

Terry was pivotal, as a commissioner back in the 1990s, of making the AFL the truly national game that it is today.

He was also instrumental in negotiating telecast rights and securing new funding for the league and clubs.

“As all who met Terry would agree, he was a tough and rugged individual who never gave up - and that’s why we can't quite believe he’s gone today".

James Weiland, a West Australian football chronologist, recalls an account of Mr O’Connor (nickname Boof) during his days as a defender in the University Football Club.

"Many an opposing forward badly misread 'Boof' who, with his long shorts (sometimes held up by an old tie), scuffed boots, fruity accent and G.J. Cresta horn-rimmed thick plastic glasses tied behind his ears, looked like someone who had wandered in from a 1920s English novel. But, built like a brick dunny, these same forwards soon learned that, despite his appearance, he was fearless and would run through anyone who got in the way as he cleared the ball with deep, penetrating drop kicks into the forward line."

Mr O’Connor was also heavily involved in securing the future of Western Australia’s sole Catholic university, serving as chancellor from 1990-2004.

Speaking last year when she was The University of Notre Dame Australia vice-chancellor, Celia Hammond commented that: “In the early days especially, Terence was an active promoter and fearless defender of Notre Dame at a time when there was some scepticism and hostility – both in Church circles and the wider community – as to whether a Catholic university in Perth was necessary of justifiable.

“He gave exemplary leadership and guidance to the University through this very challenging and remarkable foundation period. His strong and unwavering support for the mission of the University provided a firm base which the Notre Dame community knew it could rely on.”

Reflecting his many contributions to the public, Mr O’Connor was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2006.


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