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Sir Samuel Walter Griffith
, 1913

by Max Meldrum

oil on canvas (frame: 271.7 cm x 179.8 cm depth 18.0 cm, sight: 229.5 cm x 137.5 cm)

On loan to the National Portrait Gallery

Sir Samuel Walker Griffith (1845–1920), chief justice and premier, was born in Wales and came to Australia aged eight with his minister father and family. A top student, at the University of Sydney Griffith excelled at classics and mathematics; the Mort scholarship enabled him to travel to Europe. Admitted to the Bar in 1867, in 1871 he was elected to the Queensland Legislative Assembly. As Queensland’s premier from 1883 to 1888, often working 80 hours a week, he battled sugar planters and encouraged immigrants from Britain and Europe, rather than China. As Chief Justice of Queensland from 1893 to 1903, he drafted legislation with a lasting impact on State and Federal law. Griffith was dedicated to Federation, and from 1891 he was instrumental in shaping Australia’s constitution. From 1903 to 1919 he served as the inaugural Chief Justice of Australia. During most of this period he was a member of the Senate of the University of Sydney; in his spare time, he translated Dante. Though he lived in Sydney from 1903, Griffith was buried in Brisbane.

Courtesy of the Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection, Department of Parliamentary Services, Canberra, A.C.T.
Accession number: LOAN2008.22.6