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Blog / Sir John Kirwan: My Life's Adventure

Gorey Things
10 November 2017 | comments: 0 | Categories: | Tags:

Sir John Kirwan: My Life's Adventure

One of my early and more distinguished predecessors as Editor of the Kalgoorlie Miner was Sir John Kirwan. Sir John (pictured) was born on 2 December 1869 in Liverpool, England, and sailed on 25 May 1889 for Australia to join his brother Edmund, a journalist on the Brisbane Courier.

He worked at various regional newspapers, including Kerang, Casterton and Port Augusta, and tried his hand at prospecting before becoming part-owner with the Hocking brothers of the Kalgoorlie Miner, which was a political force respected by parliament and government.

Sir John KirwanSir John and the newspaper were instrumental in galvanising the Goldfields to win a majority vote in Western Australia for Federation.

He was elected MP for Kalgoorlie at the first Federal Election in 1901.

His memoirs, My Life's Adventure, were published in 1936 before his death after a short illness in 1949.

It's a fascinating book, replete with recollections of country life in various parts of Australia; laced with humor and informed political commentary.

A PDF download is available from the University of Sydney digital library.

It's little known these days that Western Australia was a reluctant partner in the Australian Commonwealth. As Sir John wrote:

"I advocated in the Press the separation of the eastern goldfields from the colony of Western Australia for the purpose of forming a new state and joining the Commonwealth. A movement was started that had for its motto 'Separation for Federation'. Such a movement could be used as an invaluable lever to force the Government to take a referendum. If it did not result in that, then separation from Western Australia was bound to be successful and the goldfields would not fare badly as a self-governing state of the Commonwealth with a railway to the port of Esperance and considerable land awaiting development to the south of the goldfields. In either eventuality, that is whether Western Australia was forced into Federation or the eastern goldfields created a new state, the mining community would be satisfied."

A petition to Queen Victoria seeking the establishment of a new colony was signed by 28,000 people.

British Ministers pressured the Western Australian Government to agree to a referendum. The vote in 1900 showed a clear majority in favor of federal union. The figures were: Yes, 44,800; No, 19,691.

  • Note: This article was originally published in January 2014.
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