South Australia’s newest District Court Judge, and North Adelaide parishioner, Paul Slattery, recollects the positive impact a few words of encouragement from a local Catholic priest had on initiating his 35-year-long journey to the Bench, in an interview with The Southern Cross.
Like many kids growing up in the southern Adelaide suburbs of Darlington, and later Sturt, Judge Paul Slattery recalls a childhood where “you had to make your own fun”. “We were all in the same circumstance together,” he says.
It was a time when Darlington was a developing suburb on the outskirts of town and services were limited. “The little we had, we valued enormously and we learnt to be independent and self sufficient,” he says from his District Court chambers in the historic Samuel Way Building on Adelaide’s picturesque Victoria Square.
His father – a World War II veteran who saw the “worst” of the war fighting in the Kokoda Track campaign – sold pharmaceuticals to support his wife and six children. Despite their circumstances, Judge Slattery says his parents always made their children’s education a top priority.
“The education that my parents provided included university education for many of their children; something they could only dream of.”
Judge Slattery, 57, was a student at Stella Maris Parish School in Seacombe Gardens a few years after it was founded in 1956 by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, an order of nuns his older sister Catherine joined and remains with in Sydney. He is most likely the school’s first old scholar to have been appointed a Judge.
“It was a school during the week and a Church on the weekend,” he says. “We had 81 children in my Year 2 class and we all learnt to read, write and do arithmetic.” And he says the Sisters did their best running the school on a shoestring budget. “It seems extraordinary now looking back. I don’t know how the Sisters did it.”
Judge Slattery went on to study at Sacred Heart College from Years 4 to 12. It was at around age 12 at Sacred Heart that he began to contemplate the possibility of a law degree following a chance conversation with then Parish Priest Philip Kennedy, who later became Auxiliary Bishop of Adelaide.
Fr Philip was a lawyer who left Thomson Muirhead Varley and Evans to enter the seminary. It is the same firm Judge Slattery’s son Charles now works with (today the firm is called Thomsons Lawyers).
“I found him to be an extraordinary man,” says Judge Slattery. “And he influenced me,” he says. “Outside of my family and teachers, he was one of the first people in my life to ask me about my studies. And where I lived most males left school at 15 and went to do a trade. That was the way. "
FULL STORY Star pupil of Stella Maris (The Southern Cross)