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Members’ biographical register

John Trezise Tonkin

Principal Honours
Appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) 1977 for eminent and meritorious service to politics and government
Awarded Queen’s Jubilee Medal 1978
Senior West Australian of the Year Award 1983
Date: 2 February 1902
Place: Boulder, Western Australia
Son of John Trezise Tonkin, winding engine driver and farmer, and Julia Carrigan
Marriage and Family
Married (1) 29 December 1926, St Mary’s Church, West Perth to Rosalie Maud Cleghorn (born October 1903), daughter of John Walker Cleghorn and Caroline Eliza Tapson (nee Hall)
Children: one son and two daughters
Widowed 1 January 1969
Married (2) 12 June 1971, Wesley Church, Perth to Winifred Joan West (nee Wheat), daughter of Alfred George West and Winifred Burrows
No children
Date: 20 October 1995
Place: Concorde Nursing Home, South Perth, Western Australia
Cemetery: Fremantle Cemetery (State funeral, service at Wesley Church, Perth), WA
Educated Boulder City Central School—dux of school 1916 and Eastern Goldfields High School 1917
Claremont Teachers Training College July 1921–July 1922—Teachers’ Certificate
FAIA (Fellow of the Australian Institute) Studied accountancy by correspondence while school teaching)
Employment History
Office boy for several months in 1917 at Kalgoorlie Electric Power Co
Monitor at Brown Hill School 1918–1919
Head teacher on supply at Edjudina via Kookynie 1920–July 1922
School teacher at Yallingup 1922, Nuralingup 1923–1925, Rapid Landing (near Margaret River) February–September 1926, Kulin 1926–1927, Margaret River, Picton and Karnup during 1927, Hamel 1928, Palgarup 1929–1930, North Perth May–July 1930
First assistant North Fremantle State School July 1930–1933
Enlisted as Trooper with Australian Imperial Force Army 17 December 1940, qualified signaller with 11th Battalion, Melville from May 1941

Promoted to Corporal 7 May 1941 and Sergeant 19 November 1942
With Western Command Training School August–December 1941
With Reserve before December 1941 and after February 1942, discharged 25 October 1944
Joined Australian Labor Party 1923
Established branch at Forrest Grove
Delegate to State Executive
Date Elected
8 April 1933
Inaugural Speech
Inaugural Video
Search for speeches by John Tonkin
Tonkin, John Tresize, Valedictory Speech.pdf
Year Retired/Resigned
North-East Fremantle
Parliamentary Service
  • MLA North-East Fremantle 8 April 1933–25 March 1950 (electorate abolished in redistribution); Melville 25 March 1950–19 February 1977

  • Contested Sussex 26 March 1927, Murray–Wellington 12 April 1930
  • Premier 1971–1974
  • Leader of the Opposition 1966–1971 and 1974–1976
  • Secretary Parliamentary Labor Party 1936–1943
  • Minister for Education, Social Services and Agriculture (from 3 August 1945) 9 December 1943–1 April 1947; for Education (until 13 May 1954), Works and Water Supplies 23 February 1953–2 April 1959
  • Deputy Premier 7 December 1955–2 April 1959
  • Deputy Leader of the Opposition June 1951–February 1953, April 1959–1 January 1967
  • Leader of the Opposition 1 January 1967–3 March 1971
  • Premier and Treasurer (from 12 October 1971), Education (until 12 October 1971), Environment Protection (until 12 October 1971) and Cultural Affairs 3 March 1971–8 April 1974
  • Leader of the Opposition 8 April 1974–15 April 1976
  • Opposition spokesman on Treasury, and Minister Coordinating Regional and Economic Development 1974–April 1976

  • Member Library Committee 1939–1953, 1959–1965
  • Chairman Select Committee on the Investment and Security Co of WA Ltd 1937
  • Chairman Select Committee on the Operations of the Australian Wheat Board at North Fremantle 1943
  • Chairman Select Committee on the Disposal of Potatoes Grown Commercially in WA 1949
  • Member Select Committee on the City of Perth Superannuation Fund Bill 1934
  • Member Select Committee on the Betting Control Bill 1936
  • Member Select Committee on the SGIO Bill 1937
  • Member Select Committee on Wheat Held in Storage in WA by Merchants 1939
  • Member Select Committee on Investment Companies in WA 1939
  • Member Select Committee on the Incidence of TB in Certain Dairy Cattle 1947

Royal Commissions
  • Member Hon Royal Commission inquiring into the Municipal Council of the City of Perth 1937–1938
  • Member Hon Royal Commission into the Natural Therapists Bill 1960–1861

  • Led trade mission for WA Government to UK and USA in 1958

Historical Notes
  • Served longest ever continuous and total period from 1933 to 1977, 43 years nine months 19 days, in either house of the WA Parliament
  • Father of the House 1968–1977
Warden State War Memorial November 1977–November 1978
Freeman Town of East Fremantle 1977
Teachers Certificate
D Black and G Bolton, eds. Biographical Register of Members of the Parliament of Western Australia, Vol. 2, 1930-2010, Western Australian Parliamentary History Project, Perth 2010.
G Duncan, A Conspicuously Decent Man: A Biography of Australia’s Longest Serving Politician and Former Premier of WA, John Tonkin (Typescript, Battye Library, Perth)
GS Reid and MR Oliver The Premiers of Western Australia 1890-1982, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, WA, 1982.
Transcript of interview made available by National Library (State Library and WA Parliament Library)
West Australian, 12 April 1933, 11 October 1983, 23 October 1995.
Further Information
Tonkin, John Tresize, Oral History, 1972 and 1973.pdfTonkin, John Tresize, Oral History, 1972 and 1973.pdf