Meaning of ‘person’

Genesian Theatre v NSW [2021] NSWSC 1089

Paula Bate said many times she wanted to leave everything to the theatre.  There was no dispute about this, but she never made a will.  She died, her estate vested in the State, and the theatre tried to claim it – refused.  The issue was whether the theatre as a corporation was a ‘person’ in this regard10.

The Interpretation Act said it was, unless ‘context or subject-matter otherwise indicates or requires’.  Garling J stressed the impact of context11.  Also, one ‘must not be too ready’ to depart from the Interpretation Act position.  The test is whether context clearly requires a different outcome – ‘a fairly high hurdle to jump’12  – here, it was too high.

This principle is from Episode 77 of interpretation NOW!


10 s 61B(8) of the Wills, Probate and Administration Act 1898 (NSW).

11 Project Blue Sky [1998] HCA 28 (at [78]), Kaldas [2017] NSWCA 275 (at [115]).

12 Hunter [2005] NSWSC 616 (at [16]), cf Affco [2017] NZSC 135 (at [59]).