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"A veritable Augustus": the life of John Winthrop Hackett, newspaper proprietor, politician and philanthropist (1848-1916)

Collins, Alexander (2007) "A veritable Augustus": the life of John Winthrop Hackett, newspaper proprietor, politician and philanthropist (1848-1916). PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Irish-born Sir John Winthrop Hackett (1848-1916) achieved substantial political and social standing in Western Australia through his editorship and part-ownership of the West Australian newspaper, his position as a Legislative Council member and as a layman in the Anglican Church. The thesis illustrates his strong commitment to numerous undertakings, including his major role in the establishment of Western Australia's first University.

This thesis will argue that whatever Hackett attempted to achieve in Western Australia, his philosophy can be attributed to his Irish Protestant background including his student days at Trinity College Dublin. After arriving in Australia in 1875 and teaching at Trinity College Melbourne until 1882, his ambitions took him to Western Australia where he aspired to be accepted and recognised by the local establishment. He was determined that his achievements would not only be acknowledged by his contemporaries, but also just as importantly be remembered in posterity. After a failed attempt to run a sheep station, he found success as part-owner and editor of the West Australian newspaper.

Outside of his business interests, Hackett’s commitment to the Anglican Church was unflagging. At the same time, he was instrumental in bringing about the abolition of state aid to church schools in Western Australia, which he saw as advantaging the Roman Catholic Church. He was a Legislative Council member for 25 years during which time he used his editorship of the West Australian, to campaign successfully on a number of social, industrial and economic issues ranging from divorce reform to the provision of economic infrastructure. As a delegate to the National Australasian Conventions he continually strove to improve the conditions under which Western Australia would join Federation. His crowning achievement was to establish the state’s first university, which he also generously provided for in his will. One of the most influential men in Western Australian history, his career epitomised the energy and ambition of the well-educated immigrant.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Reece, Robert
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