Born in Collingwood in 1856, the son of a Cobb & Co manager, he attended Melbourne Grammar, matriculating in 1871. While studying Law at the University of Melbourne, Deakin supplemented his income for 18 months by teaching at All Saints Grammar School in Chapel Street earning £80 per annum.
He was admitted to the Bar in 1877 and elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1879 at the age of 23 for the rural seat of West Bourke. He became Commissioner for Public Works and Water Supply in 1883 and later as Solicitor-General he secured the passing of the Shops and Factories Act which regulated employment conditions and hours of work.
In 1882, following Deakin’s marriage to ‘Pattie’ Browne, the couple initially lived in South Melbourne before moving into a newly built six room brick villa on the Marlton Estate. The St Kilda Rate Book of 17 December 1883 shows A Deakin MP renting the villa on allotment 9 from the Marlton Syndicate. Lot 9 became 1 Marlton Crescent which these days is occupied by a block of flats, but the Deakin villa was probably identical to 3 Marlton Crescent. In 1884, Mrs Deakin of Marlton Crescent was advertising for a nurse to mind her baby – probably the Deakin’s first-born daughter Ivy Deakin. In 1886-87, the family moved to their permanent home in Walsh Street South Yarra.
During the last decade of the 19th century, Deakin was one of the main architects of Federation and in 1901 was elected to the electorate of Ballaarat, immediately becoming Australia’s first Attorney General in Edmund Barton’s government. The ‘two-party system’ hadn’t yet evolved so Deakin and his allies were in and out of government over the following decade but he nonetheless chalked up some significant achievements. Deakin oversaw the passing of the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 making Australia the first country in the world to both grant women the vote and allow them to stand for Parliament and in 1908 he introduced the Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act. However, as Attorney-General he drafted the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, the foundation of the White Australia Policy which bedevilled Australia for the next fifty years.
He retired from Parliament in 1913 and died at his home in South Yarra in 1919.
Sands & McDougall Directories: slv.vic.gov.au
Victoria Australia Rate Books, 1855-1963, City of St Kilda
‘The Spirit of St Kilda: Places of Worship in St Kilda’ by Janet Bomford.
Australian Dictionary of Biography
Liz Kelly - March 2021