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ON DISPLAY

Sir Robert Garran
, 1922

by Bernard Hall

oil on canvas (frame: 77.5 cm x 62.3 cm depth 6.5 cm, support: 61.0 cm x 46.0 cm)

Robert Garran GCMG (1867–1957) was the first-ever Australian Commonwealth public servant. The son of journalist and politician Andrew Garran, he studied at the University of Sydney and was admitted to the bar in 1891. He then became active in the Federation movement and on 1 January 1901 was named secretary of the Attorney-General’s department and parliamentary draftsman. Having overseen the formation of the first Federal departments and crafted legislation for services including defence and communications, Garran was appointed to the new post of solicitor-general in 1916. He attended the meetings of the Imperial War Cabinet in 1918, the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, the Imperial Conference of 1923, and the League of Nations in 1930. After retiring from the public service in early 1932 he took silk and returned to private practice. In the 1930s he was chair of the Book Censorship Board and rebutted the case for the secession of the state of Western Australia. He was a powerful advocate for the establishment of the Australian National University (and its first graduate) and a long-time supporter of the arts and intellectual pursuits. Upon his death, Robert Menzies said ‘What a man he was, and how grateful we all are for his life and his kind.’

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the John Garran 2019
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2019.23