History of West Australia/Alfred Robert Waylen

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DR. A. R. WAYLEN, M.D.; M.R.C.S.(ENG); L.S.A; J.P.

Dr A R Waylen HOFWA.jpg
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DR. A.B. WAYLEN, M.D.; M.R.C.S (ENG.); L.S.A.; J.P.

A TALENTED medical practitioner in a colony of the dimensions of Western Australia has a wide field for his energies. A young colony requires the presence of a politician in medical economy as much as in political economy. The profession must be safeguarded; it must have its special rules of etiquette, its limitations and status; no quacks must enter, and there must be articles of charter under which the practitioners are protected. To negotiate all this work, the pioneer doctors had to exercise caution and judgment. Their practice was an important part of their daily life, but beyond that, they acted as a parent protecting a family in their advocacy of the rights of the profession.

Dr. A. R. Waylen has performed many of these duties in Western Australia, Officially and unofficially he has well maintained the dignity of medical practitioners, and, moreover, has constantly sought to give a higher status to the profession. Born in Western Australia he has associated himself closely with its history, has proved a talented practitioner, and assisted the colony in wise government in many ways. A doctor is able to help his country outside his profession. The very nature of his position commands respect, and his opinion on any subject is listened to and noted. His influence among the people with whom he has to do is great, and may affect them to no small extent. Dr. Waylen not only helped the colony out of disease into health and in various public and private medical positions, but he encouraged in a most practical way viticulture, horticulture, and agriculture. Colonists are justly proud of him.

Alfred Robert Waylen was one of the first white children born in the colony. His father, Mr. Alfred Waylen, came here among the earliest bands of pioneers, and settled on the land with his wife. In 1833 Alfred Robert was born at Point Walter, opposite to where Claremont now is. Amid the struggles of settlement in the thirties his infant days were spent. But when he was eight years old his parents took him to London to receive his education. From then until 1857 the young Australian earnestly prosecuted his studies and took his degrees. In 1856 he qualified as M.R.C.S. (Eng.), L.S.A. (Lond.), L. Mid. R.C.S. (Eng.). In 1857 he returned to the colony, but shortly afterwards went back to England again to obtain experience at the hospitals, and in 1858 took his M.D. degree. Finally, in 1859, he began to practise in Western Australia, and from that time to the present has been recognised as a dominant figure in our midst. His first official appointments were as surgeon in the convict service and medical officer in the colonial service in the Swan district. He was stationed at Guildford, and supervised the convict depôt and outstations there. After thirteen years' residence at Guildford, in August, 1872, he removed to Perth, where he was appointed to the post of colonial surgeon, succeeding Dr. Ferguson, who had held the position for many previous years. Altogether, Dr. Waylen saw thirty-six years' active Government service. As colonial surgeon he had supreme control over the Colonial Hospital, which institution he supervised until September, 1895, when he resigned his appointments. The hospital is now controlled by a committee of management. In 1876 Dr. Waylen took up the duties of medical officer of the Perth Prison, while other offices were entailed on the colonial surgeonship, such as superintendent of vaccination and president of the Board of Health. But he contrived to interest himself in everything which had to do with the welfare of his native land. Soon after going to Guildford he planted a fine vineyard of nine acres, and three years later began to manufacture wine. He thus encouraged the establishment of vineyards throughout Guildford and neighbouring districts, and the excellence of the wine he produced proved that climate and soil lent themselves to such an industry. He was among the pioneers of the wine industry, and retains his vineyard and has manufactured wine almost every succeeding year since establishing it. He prophesies a bright future for Australia in wine production, but wisely and emphatically points out that producers must aim at supplying a first-class article and obtain the assistance of experienced men from Europe. As instancing the quality of his wine, he has been awarded several diplomas at exhibitions in Paris and Melbourne, to which he sent samples, while he holds the diploma of the Sydney Agricultural Society for the best raisins produced in Australasia. Matters relating to the protection and welfare of aborigines also excited his sympathies, and he was a member of the Royal Commission appointed by the Governor, Sir Frederick Broome, to enquire into the treatment and condition of native prisoners in the prison at Rottnest Island. Three or four days were spent by the Commission at Rottnest, and as a result of their labours the report, signed by Sir John Forrest, as chairman, caused the formation in 1886 of the Aborigines' Protection Board. A point of contention in the Constitution Act of 1890 was the decision come to by the Imperial Government to retain control over the natives of the colony and to demand that the local Government should pay according to revenue so much per annum for their support and protection. Since responsible government, local politicians have strenuously objected to paying these sums of money for purposes where they have no voice in their allocation. The Aborigines' Protection Board is still (1896) in existence under Imperial control, and Dr. Waylen is its chairman. About seven years ago a commission, with Dr. Waylen as chairman, was appointed to investigate and report on the water supplies and drainage of Perth and Fremantle; an improvement in certain sanitary arrangements and also in the water supply for each centre eventuated from its report. Horticultural and agricultural interests have, however, received special encouragement and assistance from Dr. Waylen. Throughout the course of his career he has been a redoubtable advocate for a better system of working in these industries, and he has devoted much time to developing them. He was elected president of the first general conference of horticulturists and fruitgrowers held in Perth four years ago. At the same time he was president of the Swan Vine and Fruit Growers' Association, which was the second association formed in country districts for the furtherance of vine growing. Both of these bodies gave a stimulus to the industries interested, and the results are sure to show in years to come. In 1894, Dr. Waylen was president of the Royal Agricultural Society of Western Australia, and also of the Horticultural Society.

In his profession the doctor holds first rank in the colony. He was for years president of the Board of Health as well as president of the Medical Board. He has been a governor of the Perth High School since its foundation, and was gazetted a Justice of the Peace in 1863. He was a member of the Perth Commission for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition. Dr. Waylen was first married in 1862 to a daughter of the Hon. J. W. Hardey, M.L.C. That lady dying, he married in 1887 Lady Leake, widow of the late Sir Luke S. Leake, for years Speaker of the Legislative 0ouncil.

From this short sketch it will be recognised how closely Dr. Waylen has been associated with Western Australia and how wisely he has used his position in encouraging development in local industries. He holds the most honourable of medical records in the colony, and has been able to render substantial service to his profession and the colony at large. He enjoys the respect and confidence of all West Australians, who admire his talents as a physician and surgeon, his courtesy and sense of honour as a private gentleman, his services in protecting the rights and status of the medical fraternity, and his assistance of the development of the primary industries of the soil. What Sir John Forrest has been to the colony in politics, Dr. Alfred R. Waylen has been in his particular sphere.