History of West Australia/George Leake

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HISTORY is made by men collectively and individually. One strong hand can mar the work of generations; one build a nation.

George Leake HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

Among the strong men whose intelligent minds have moulded Western Australian history stand boldly forth the Leake family. Right back to the toilsome days of 1829, when Captain Stirling founded the colony with his band of pioneers, representatives of this house have, mentally, peered over the shoulders of their contemporaries. They were of the true class of pioneers, who quickly entered into the spirit of national colonisation, and politically and commercially strengthened those institutions which have built up this remote colony. In the old Crown colony days the Leakes assisted in every agitation and movement which seemed to them to tend to a healthy destiny. During the memorable depression of the forties, Mr. George Leake—a worthy pioneer long since gone to his grave—was unceasing in his efforts to obviate distress, and establish commercial prosperity. He was a zealous advocate of the rights of settlers, and proclaimed their worthiness with an earnestness and a fearlessness that were refreshing. When death too quickly removed him, his sons, emulating his example, threw their sympathies and devoted their whole energies and talents to the local cause. Throughout long political careers they were as strong buttresses to colonial institutions during many years of dangers. But the name of Leake is so often mentioned in local history that it requires no adulation in this place.

George Leake, born in Perth in 1856, is a grandson of the pioneer, and eldest son of the late G. W. Leake, Q.C., who on more than one occasion was Acting Attorney-General and Acting Chief Justice for the colony, and was a member of the Legislative Councils, under the old constitution, as well as the newer one of Responsible Government. The uncle of Mr. George Leake was the late Sir Luke Leake, the first Speaker of the Legislative Council, before responsible Government was granted. Young Leake was educated partly in Perth and partly at St. Peter's College, Adelaide. After the completion of his scholastic studies he returned to Perth, and deciding upon the law as a profession, entered his father's office, where, under the parental eye, he soon made headway, and was admitted to practice in the year 1880. Then he entered into partnership with his father, until finally the latter retired. A year after George's admission to the bar he was made Acting Crown Solicitor and Public Prosecutor, and in 1883 was permanently appointed to that office. This honour to one so young was significant, but the ability and judgment he displayed in the conduct of his important office won for him encomiums from his brother professionals and the bench. When the first general elections under self government took place Mr. Leake was returned unopposed for the constituency of Roebourne, and was offered a portfolio in the Forrest Government, but declined, remaining as Crown Solicitor until 1894.

He was returned as member for Albany at the second general election and during the session of 1895 was elected leader of the Opposition, a position which his mental attributes and keen political economy studies enabled him to fill with credit. Mr. Leake was chosen as one of the delegates to represent Western Australia at the Federation Convention held at Adelaide in April, 1897, and has been a most consistent advocate of the movement since his entry into politics. A firm believer in the resources of the colony in which he was born, he takes an absorbing interest in the gold mining industry, and on many occasions has contributed to the fitting out of prospecting parties. He was a member of the syndicate which sent out Mr. Harry Anstey's expedition, when gold was found in the Yilgarn Valley in 1887. In 1896 Mr. Leake paid a visit to England, and while there was appointed representative of a powerful financial group, on whose behalf he concluded negotiations for a big tramway system in Perth.

Mr. Leake has always been a moving force in social and philanthropic affairs. He is a keen sportsman, and for years has been a leading light on the committee of the Western Australia Turf Club. Should he desire it, Mr. Leake has a political life of great possibilities before him. With the shrewdness which the successful man of his profession acquires, he has the keen analytical mind of a well-informed politician.