The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Stephen, Hon. James Wilberforce
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Stephen, Hon. James Wilberforce
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Stephen, Hon. James Wilberforce, M.A., was the son of the late Sir George Stephen (q.v.), and was born in London in 1822. He was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated Fourth Wrangler in 1846 and subsequently became M.A. and Fellow. He was called to the Bar in 1848, and emigrated to Victoria in 1854. There he practised his profession and took a part in politics, being returned to the Legislative Assembly for St. Kilda in 1871. He aided in the defeat of the Duffy Ministry, and on the accession to power of Mr. Francis in June 1872 accepted office in the new Ministry as Attorney-General. On behalf of the Cabinet Mr. Stephen framed and carried through Parliament the Act for establishing the present free, secular, and compulsory system of State education, with which his name will be always linked. On the passing of the Act he was appointed to administer it as first Minister of Public Instruction. This post he held, in addition to the Attorney-Generalship, from Jan. 1873 to May 1874, when he was appointed to a Supreme Court judgeship. Mr. Justice Stephen died in 1881.