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Former Member of Parliament Details

  Hon Sir John Downer KCMG KC


Full Name Sir John William Downer KCMG KC
Date of Birth 05 Jul 1843
QualificationsKCMG (1887), QC (1878) (later KC)
EducationSt Peter's College
Prior EmploymentLawyer, partner in the law firm G. & J. Downer
Public ActivitiesTwice Premier of South Australia and Senator in the first Commonwealth Parliament, Sir John Downer was born in Adelaide in 1843. He excelled at school, trained as a lawyer, and at the age of 24 became a barrister. In 1878, Downer was elected to the House of Assembly, quickly establishing a strong presence in the Parliament. He acted as Attorney-General in the Bray ministry during the early 1880's, his progressive views on women's suffrage being reflected in his important role in the development of the Married Women's Property Act (1883). He became Premier in 1885 and during the next two years struggled with issues surrounding the growing government deficit, troubled primary industries and general economic depression. Following the 1887 general election, Downer was unable to command sufficient support in the Lower House to re-form his government. He remained in Parliament and regained the Premiership in late 1892. A strong performance by the newly formed Labor Party in the April 1893 elections, however, saw the basically conservative approach of Downer again come into conflict with the necessity of co-operating with more progressive members of the Lower House. As a consequence, he was unable to continue his leadership of the government. Downer continued as Opposition Leader for the remainder of the 1890's, a period which also saw him take an active interest in moves towards Federation. He was elected to the Senate in the first Commonwealth Parliament, later returning to South Australia in 1905 to sit on the Legislative Council, where he remained until his death in 1915.
Other InformationFather of Sir Alick Downer, former Member of the House of Representatives (Angas), former minister in the Menzies Government and former High Commissioner to the UK. Grandfather of Alexander Downer, former Member of the House of Representatives (Mayo) former Foreign Affairs Minister in the Howard Government and former High Commissioner to the UK.
Deceased02 Aug 1915


DateHouseDistrictPartyReason (If Retired)
11 Apr 1878 - 23 Jul 1891House of AssemblyBarossaPre-Party SystemChanged Party
23 Jul 1891 - 25 Apr 1896House of AssemblyBarossaNational Defence LeagueSeated Federal Parliament
27 May 1905 - 02 Apr 1910Legislative CouncilSouthern District National Defence LeagueChanged Party
02 Apr 1910 - 02 Aug 1915Legislative CouncilSouthern District Liberal UnionDeceased


Offices Held

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02 Aug 1915Former Member

Ministerial Appointment

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24 Jun 1881 - 16 Jun 1884Attorney-General
16 Jun 1885 - 11 Jun 1887Attorney-General
16 Jun 1885 - 11 Jun 1887Premier
15 Oct 1892 - 12 May 1893Chief Secretary
15 Oct 1892 - 16 Jun 1893Premier
12 May 1893 - 16 Jun 1893Treasurer
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