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ONE of the most useful of Western Australia's citizens was the late Sir Winthrop Hackett, the founder and benefactor of the state's university. I saw much of him. He controlled the leading daily newspaper of Perth, the West Australian, and it co-operated with the morning daily I controlled at Kalgoorlie. In addition, he and I were each members of the Legislative Council. There was a long-continued and close relationship between us. The two papers had a joint news service from the eastern states, we received the same cablegrams from London, and there was an exchange of local news. Throughout the long years that that arrangement lasted, there was never any misunderstanding between us, and the association was amicable and satisfactory to both parties. The agreement was verbal, nothing was written, but no difference of opinion as to what was said ever arose. That was as regards our personal and business association. In politics our views were sometimes widely divergent, but we agreed to differ and respected each other's opinions.




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To-day in Western Australia the people do not realise how much they owe to Hackett. They give credit in full measure to Forrest, but Forrest could not have achieved all he did without the aid of Hackett in his newspaper and in his place in Parliament. For sixteen years he was a member of the Legislative Council. His influence there was all-powerful, and for years the Chamber was known as “The House of Hackett.” Forrest was a man of action, plain and blunt; Hackett was a keen classical scholar, the cultured product of Trinity College, Dublin, the university that produced Oliver Goldsmith, Edmund Burke, Henry Gratton, Tom Moore and Lord Carson.

Natural beauty and learning appealed to Hackett strongly. Perth's parks and gardens, the museum, the art gallery and the zoological gardens were the result of his enthusiasm.

From my first acquaintance with him he talked and worked to establish a university. I shared his desire for a university, but living as I did, not in the capital, but in a mining district, I had continually before my eyes the needs of the men who were pioneering in the back-blocks. They wanted roads and bridges, transport facilities, water supplies, hospitals and children's schools. The various Governments found it impossible to provide money for essential bread-and-butter requirements of the people who were opening up the primary industries on which the prosperity of the state relied.

Pioneers were pleading for the means to live—for the means to carry on work of inestimable service to Western Australia. They had to be told that there was no money available. How could any Government


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spend money on higher education? Was not a university somewhat premature?

Even Hackett felt that the time had not yet come, but he went on making his plans. He recognised the claims for urgently needed requirements throughout Western Australia.

“We cannot afford a university,” was a remark I heard one man make to him.

“The time is coming,” he said, “when we cannot afford to be without a university. It is not only for the education of our young people but also for research work. There are countless problems continually arising in our back country. There are treatment troubles in connection with our ores. Insect pests, poison weeds and stock diseases can only be effectively dealt with when scientifically investigated. A university would be of inestimable service in helping the development of our natural resources.”

Slowly but surely Hackett overcame opposition. In 1904 he persuaded the Government to pass through Parliament an Act for the endowment of a state university. This measure empowered the Government to set apart Crown lands by way of permanent endowment of the university. It was not until seven years later that legislation was passed to establish the present university.

Most universities are named after the town or city in which they are situated. I pointed out to Hackett that the people of the whole state would contribute to the university, for his idea was that it should be a state university maintained by the Government. People living on the eastern goldfields between three hundred and four hundred miles away from Perth or in the


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Kimberleys, one thousand miles distant, would object to contributing towards what they might consider an institution merely for the capital. If it were for Western Australia, why should it not be so named? Hence it is to-day “The University of Western Australia.”

As the result of the insistence of Hackett I became a member of the first Senate, which was appointed in 1912. I remained a member of the Senate for more than twenty years, when pressure of other public duties compelled me to retire.

The first Senate was nominated by the Government. Its eighteen members included men from all classes, occupations, and political parties. Several of them had not been to universities. At the request of the then Government I proposed, and it was unanimously agreed, that Sir Winthrop Hackett be the first Chancellor.

Temporary buildings were secured by the Senate, applications for a staff were called for by advertisements in leading newspapers in Australia and England, professors and lecturers were ultimately appointed and the institution put generally in running order. There had been an understanding with the Government that brought the university into existence that it should be free. Consequently, no fees were charged to students, an arrangement that was so novel as to cause much adverse comment.

A swan just about to rise in flight from the water was chosen as the university's crest.

After much delay a motto was selected. “Therefore seek wisdom” was much favoured. A suggestion to shorten it was adopted. “Seek wisdom” was the motto finally adopted.




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There was considerable controversy over the selection of a site. Hackett strongly favoured Crawley, the picturesque peninsula that juts out between two lake-like expanses of the Swan river, a site that was ultimately agreed to after considerable opposition. Long before the Bill was passed to establish the university he visualised it as it stands to-day—a picture of architectural triumph amidst beautiful surroundings. That splendid building, as well as the university itself, are due entirely to his foresight, his energy and his generosity. In all, he left when he died more than £500,000 to the university. Of this, £200,000 was spent in erecting the present buildings. The balance of the money has been mainly devoted towards providing studentships, bursaries and other financial help for deserving students.

Hackett's monument is the university. Magnificent monument as it is to his memory, it is no more than he deserves. Western Australia has had no one whose zeal was keener in public service.

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