The Hon Lindsay Graeme Foster SC (1951-2021) Barrister, Silk, Judge of the Federal Court of Australia

Kevin Tang

The Hon Lindsay Graeme Foster SC, barrister, silk, and judge of the Federal Court of Australia, died on 21 November 2021, aged 70 years after a lengthy period of illness.

Foster SC was educated at Knox Grammar School at Warrawee when it was still a small school. He demonstrated consistently his academic brilliance and was the dux in every year. Outside schoolwork, Foster SC was noted for his kindness, taking many an overawed or anxious younger student under his wing to steady them in their early years of secondary school. Foster SC had a contagious ebullience and bonhomie that was a central part of his nature. This rare quality, Foster SC never lost. He loved connecting with friends and mates and he demonstrated his devotion to them with his help and ear for advice and care. It is fair to say that his friendships in life were long and he cared more than most. Foster SC had a deep, chuckling laugh that put everyone at ease and everyone who knew him will miss that large dose of happiness which he exuded.

Foster SC read law at the University of Sydney where he undertook a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws. He later completed a Master of Laws. Following his studies, Foster SC was a solicitor at Henry Davis York and then Baker & McKenzie. By then the heady days of commercial litigation during the late 1970s and early 1980s had commenced. He spent a short time as general counsel and director of real estate at McDonalds Australia.

Foster SC was an avid and competent sportsman. He was an excellent cricketer, described by his captain as ‘a stylish batsman with a flourishing cover drive, and not only a contributor on the field but great company after stumps’. In all, Foster SC played five seasons with the Northern District and two seasons with the Sydney University Cricket Club, frequently participating in the most senior levels of the Sydney Grade Cricket Competition. Other than in cricket, Foster SC was an outstanding rugby union player. He represented New South Wales at both Under 19s and Under 20s and continued to play in the Sydney First Grade Competition. These achievements speak of Foster SC as a fine sportsman. He had a glint in the eye. He was a gentleman and a sportsman combined.

Foster SC was called to the Bar in 1981 and he quickly gained a reputation for being a vigorous and highly skilled cross-examiner. He loved the Bar. While at the Bar Foster SC possessed an outward charm and grace such that, often to the amazement of his colleagues, he was able to subdue even the hardest taskmasters on the Bench. There were rarely any frosty receptions from the Bench and in those years, some judges could be fierce. He exuded a serenity and a certain kindliness too civilised for brutality. Many who appeared with Foster SC, and against him, regard him as one of the finest barristers they knew. His skill as a barrister was not only attributable to his intellect, legal knowledge and his finely tuned forensic skills, but also his charm. As Tom Bathurst QC, before he became chief justice of the Supreme Court, said at Foster SC’s swearing-in as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia, he was a most dangerous opponent who retained throughout his career what appeared to be an innocent charm, which most people could only envy, but which had a real tendency to lull opponents, witnesses, and even judges, into a false sense of security. Foster SC never lost the taste for the rough and tumble of commercial cases, whatever the size, and the sheer drama generated by the entities and people involved.

Foster SC was always amicable and his character most sociable, his room often becoming the venue for Friday afternoon drinks – the epicentre of conviviality. Foster SC took silk in 1994 – it was the culmination of an exceptional career as a busy and much sought after commercial junior. His chambers were regularly the site of a drinks party. Everyone was welcome.

Foster SC was for many years a member of the Eleventh Floor of Wentworth Chambers having read on the floor. In 1994 he became a founding member of Fifth Floor St James’ Hall. He was often seen walking in Queens Square – waving at passers-by or stopping for a chat. Indeed, one hoped to be greeted and to stop for a most life affirming laugh. He was a most sociable individual and with his striking shock of grey hair, styled high, he would hold court with his friends and colleagues. There was a regal and courtly dimension to these chance encounters especially in Queens Square with friends and acquaintances from the Bar and the Bench. Some say it was like meeting a Medici Prince. Foster SC made people feel special, he was magnetic, and that quality endured throughout his life.

Foster SC was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in September 2008, sitting on the Bench until September 2020. It was a much-feted appointment and the Bar celebrated his elevation to the ranks of the judiciary. Upon his appointment, Foster SC noted his indebtedness to his colleagues at Fifth Floor James’ Hall and those other inspirational leaders and distinguished members of the Inner Bar (many of whom took judicial appointment) throughout his time at the Bar including: the Hon GA Palmer AM QC, the (late) Hon PG Hely QC, the Hon RV Gyles AO QC, the Hon RL Hunter QC and the Hon TEF Hughes AO QC. In line with Foster SC’s tendency to be a true renaissance man, he was always acutely aware that the law, the independent judiciary, and the legal profession, occupied a pivotal place in the administration of any healthy democracy. Foster SC endured bravely the diagnosis and sequelae of a rare disorder. He faced the treatment bravely and never lost sight of what was most important in life. His great friend the Hon Justice John Nicholas, with whom he sat on the Federal Court, said of Foster SC ‘Whether as a barrister, a judge, or just a good friend, he was always approachable, providing his support to many different people from all walks of life. To them he provided trusted advice and consolation often helping them through their most difficult times. He will also be remembered as a loving husband, father and grandfather who successfully managed to pursue a demanding and stressful career as a barrister and then as a judge while always managing to find time for his family. What I will remember the most is his warmth, charisma and courage. He was a great friend to many people.’

Foster SC was devoted to Anne, his spouse and he was father of Andrew, Fiona, Mark and Cameron; father-in-law of Caio, Louise and Emma. He was the adored ‘poppy’ of Chris, Alex, Marine, James and Tom.

Atque in perpetuum, fr?ter, av? atque val?. Catullus Carmina 101
And forever, brother, hail and farewell.

By The Hon Justice John Nicholas and Kevin Tang

Kevin Tang

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