6. Sir John Winthrop Hackett (1848-1916), editor, politician and University Chancellor
Born in Ireland, the well-educated John Winthrop Hackett boarded a ship headed for Australia in 1875. He took up journalism and contributed to the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Melbourne Review. Hackett moved to Western Australia in 1883.
After briefly working on a sheep station in the Gascoyne, Hackett became a partner in The West Australian newspaper, which went on to flourish and become a daily publication with Hackett as its editor. In 1894 Hackett was elected to the Legislative Council, a seat which he held until his death. He was an advocate for women’s suffrage, and a strong supporter of Lord John Forrest’s development policy in the building of the pipeline to the Goldfields and the construction of Fremantle harbour.
The Commonwealth’s first free university, the University of Western Australia, was founded in 1913 thanks largely to Hackett’s vision, tenacity and financial support. He became its first Chancellor.
In 1905, Hackett married 18-year-old Deborah Vernon Drake-Brockman, daughter of heroine Grace Vernon Drake-Brockman. They had four daughters and a son, Sir John Hackett, later prominent as a General in the British Army.
After his death, Hackett’s bequest to the university funded the establishment of scholarships and bursaries, and the construction of the Winthrop Hall and Hackett Buildings. His bequest to the Church of England paid for the building of St George’s College, the first residential college within the University of Western Australia.