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Members’ biographical register

Hon John Alexander Cowdell

Principal Honours
Awarded Centenary of Federation Medal 2003
Awarded Hon Doctorate Litt Curtin University 2006
Member of the Order of Australia (AM) awarded on 26 January 2010 for service to the Parliament of Western Australia, to regional development, and to the community, particularly through contributions to history and heritage
Date: 24 May 1953
Place: South Perth, Western Australia
Arrival in WA
Kenneth Morton Cowdell, council employee, and Edith Mary Owens
Marriage and Family
Cause of Death:
Uniting Church
Rockingham Beach Primary School, Kwinana Junior High School and John Curtin Senior High School
University of Western Australia
BA (Hons), Dip Ed
University lecturer, political organiser and public servant
Employment History
Part-time lecturer and tutor TAFE and University of Western Australia 1976–1979
Commonwealth public servant 1980–1982
Tutor St George’s College, University of Western Australia 1980–1982
Dean Kingswood College, University of Western Australia 1986–1990
Assistant Secretary Australian Labor Party (Western Australia) 1982–1991
Commonwealth public servant 1991–1993

Adviser to Hon K C Beazley
Local Government Service
Joined Australian Labor Party 1971
Member State Executive Australian Labor Party (Western Australia) from 1976, Administrative Committee 1981–1991
Proxy delegate National Executive 1987–1989
Assistant secretary Australian Labor Party (Western Australia) 1982–1991
Date Elected
22 May 1993
Inaugural Speech
Inaugural Video
No inaugural video is available as filming did not start until May 2003
Search for speeches by John Cowdell
Valedictory Speech
Cowdell, John Alexander, Valedictory Speech.pdf
Year Retired/Resigned
South West
Parliamentary Service

  • MLC South-West Region 22 May 1993–21 May 2005. Elected as Member for South West Region (re-elected 1996 and 2001).

  • Shadow Minister for Parliamentary and Electoral Affairs, and South West 15 January 1997–10 February 2001
  • President of Legislative Council 22 May 2001–21 May 2005

  • Deputy President and Chairman of Committees in the Legislative Council 28 May 1997–21 May 2001
  • Member Legislative Committee 3 August 1993–14 May 1996, 10 April 1997–23 December 1998 and 27 October 1999–10 January 2001
  • Member Joint Standing Committee on Commission on Government 16 August 1994–12 February 1996
  • Member Joint Standing Committee on the Anti-Corruption Commission 30 October–14 November 1996 and 1997–2001
  • Member Standing Orders Committee 27 May 1997–21 May 2001
  • Chairman Committee on Procedures and Privileges 24 May 2001–21 May 2005
  • Chairman Parliamentary Services Committee 30 May 2001–21 May 2005

Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
  • Represented Western Australian Branch of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association at 50th General Conference, Canada, 2004
  • Joint Host 27th Australian and Pacific Regional Conference, Perth, October 2004
  • Life member Commonwealth Parliamentary Association from 2006

Historical Notes
  • First member of Australian Labor Party to hold position of President of the Legislative Council
  • As President instituted Parliamentary Fellow and Parliamentary Service Awards and with Speaker Riebeling initiated in Parliament House the establishment of the Centenary Room, extensions to the Northern Wing, establishment of the Aboriginal People’s Room and placing of lead lighting in the historic wing


  • Contested Senate (Western Australia) 24 March 1990
Private Member's Bills
Constitution of Western Australia Bill 1997 Referred to Standing Committee on Legislation - 9/09/1998
Constitution of Western Australia Bill 1997 Referred to Standing Committee on Legislation - 13/11/1997
Electoral Amendment (Constitutional Provisions) Bill 1997 Referred to Standing Committee on Legislation - 9/09/1998
Electoral Amendment (Constitutional Provisions) Bill 1997 Referred to Standing Committee on Legislation - 13/11/1997
Electoral Amendment (Constitutional Provisions) Bill 1997 Referred to Standing Committee on Legislation - 9/09/1998
Electoral Amendment (Constitutional Provisions) Bill 2000 Legislative Council Second Reading - 12/10/2000
Electoral Distribution Amendment (Electoral Districts) Bill 1999 Legislative Council Second Reading - 13/05/1999
Metropolitan Region Scheme (Fremantle Controlled Access Highways) Bill 1998 Legislative Council Second Reading - 30/06/1998
Member Public Sector Union, Australian Workers' Union
Member Australian political exchange delegation United States of America 1985
Chairman Western Australia 175th Anniversary Committee 2002–2004
Secretary John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library appeal 1989–1993 and John Curtin House Management Committee from 2007
John Curtin Centre Fellow 2004
Chairman Peel Development Commission 2005–2009
Member Regional Development Commission of Western Australia 2005–2009, chairman 2007–2009
Statutory Adviser to Salary and Allowances Tribunal of Western Australia 2005–2009
Member Council Curtin University 2005–2008
Adjunct professor Murdoch University 2005–2008
Member Advisory Board Constitutional Centre of Western Australia from 2007
Member Council National Trust of Australia (Western Australia) from 2006, president from 2008
Director Gunala Enterprises Pty Ltd, Peel and South West Division of General Practice Ltd and of Australia Climate Exchange Ltd

Justice of the Peace
Member Heritage Council of Western Australia
Chair Heritage Council of Western Australia from 2020
BA (Hons), Dip Ed
D Black and G Bolton, eds, Biographical Register of Members of the Parliament of Western Australia: volume two 1930-2010, Western Australian Parliamentary History Project, Perth, WA, 2011, p. 54.
"Cowdell Heritage Chair", Business News, 3 February 2020, p. 46.
It's an Honour website Accessed 7 February 2019.
Further Information