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Members’ biographical register

John Forrest

Principal Honours
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George 1882
Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George 1891
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George 1901
Baron 1918
Elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (gold medal), Chevalier of the Order of the Crown, Italy
Date: 22 August 1847
Place: Preston Point near Bunbury, Western Australia
Arrival in WA
William, miller, and Margaret Guthrie Hill
Brother of Alexander Forrest and David Forrest, brother-in-law of Edward Hamersley and Samuel Hamersley
Marriage and Family
Married 29 February 1876, St Georges Cathedral, Perth to Margaret Elvire Hamersley (born 22 October 1844 and died 13 June 1929), daughter of Edward and Anne Louise Corneille
No children
Date: 3 September 1918
Place: At sea on Marathon off Sierra Leone, Africa
Cemetery: Karrakatta Cemetery, Western Australia
Cause of Death:
Church of England
Government school, Picton, Bunbury, Bishop Hale’s school (1859–1863)
1897 Honorary Doctor of Laws (Cambridge)
1902 Honorary Doctor of Laws (Adelaide)
1916 Honorary Doctor of Laws (University of Western Australia)
Employment History
Apprenticed as surveyor November 1863
Appointed temporary Government Surveyor December 1865, remained on staff of Surveyor-General’s office until 1890
1869 led expeditions to interior to search for Leichhardt’s remains and 1870 from Perth–Adelaide along South coast
1871 became Government Surveyor for Northern District
1874 led expeditions Geraldton–Adelaide across centre of Western Australia to overland telegraph line
1876 Deputy Surveyor-General
1878 acting Surveyor-General and Commissioner of Crown Lands, 1880–1881 Acting Superintendent of Convicts
Fellow Linnean Society of Adelaide for work in collecting Australian flora
January 1883–1890 Surveyor-General and Commissioner of Crown Lands
Privy Councillor 1897
Local Government Service
Forrest Party
Protectionist 1901–1906
Western Australia Party 1906–1910
Liberal from 1910
Date Elected
3 December 1890
Inaugural Speech
Inaugural Video
Search for speeches by John Forrest
Valedictory Speech
Year Retired/Resigned
Parliamentary Service

  • Nominated (official) MLC 10 January 1883–9 June 1887, 6 March 1888–21 October 1890
  • MLA Bunbury 3 December 1890–circa 14 February 1901

  • Premier and Colonial Treasurer 29 December 1890–14 February 1901
  • Colonial Secretary 4 December 1894–28 April 1898

  • Represented Western Australia at Federal Conventions 1891 and 1897–1898, Federal Councils 1893, 1895, 1897 (president), 1899

Historical Notes
  • Three Forrest brothers served in the Parliament of Western Australia including Sir John Forrest and his brothers, Alexander and David.


  • MHR Swan 30 March 1901–3 September 1918

  • Postmaster-General 1 January–17 January 1901
  • Minister for Defence 17 January 1901–10 August 1903
  • Minister for Home Affairs 11 August 1903–27 April 1904
  • Treasurer 5 July 1905–30 July 1907, 2 June 1909–29 April 1910, 24 June 1913–17 September 1914, 17 February 1917–27 March 1918
  • Acting Prime Minister 1907
Private Member's Bills
1887 represented Western Australia at 1st Colonial Conference and Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations in London
First Australian to be created a peer in 1918
  • Explorations in Australia (London, 1875)
  • Notes on Western Australia (Perth 1884, 1885 and 1886)
  • The Present and Future of Western Australia (Perth, 1897)
Honorary Fellow St Petersburg, Vienna and Italian Geographical Societies
1897 Honorary Doctor of Laws (Cambridge)
1902 Honorary Doctor of Laws (Adelaide)
1916 Honorary Doctor of Laws (University of Western Australia)
D Black and G Bolton, eds, Biographical Register of Members of the Parliament of Western Australia: volume one 1870-1930, Parliamentary History Project, Perth, WA, 2010, p. 75.
Further Information
Mary Shanahan, 'Forrest, John (1820–1883)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 21 December 2015.