Investigation 5

Who was John Forrest, and what were his contributions to Western Australia?

Many Western Australians of the 1800s made important contributions to their communities and worked hard to build a strong and prosperous future for the colony. John Forrest was one of these people. He became Western Australia’s first Premier in 1890.

Although the role as leader of the colony’s first elected government was new, Forrest had already participated in the political life of the colony for many years. Before self-government was granted, the colony was led by a Governor appointed by Britain. The Governor then appointed officials, such as ministers, to help him. Forrest had been one of these ministers.

John Forrest’s working life also included other roles and experiences that helped him to develop his skills as a leader and decision-maker, which were critical in guiding the colony towards a decision on Federation. His family background and early life can also provide insights into how he came to play such a key role in Western Australia’s development.

Your Task

Investigate the life of John Forrest and the contribution he made to Western Australia’s decision to join the Federation.


  1. Investigate John Forrest’s life. List the most significant facts and events.
  2. As a group, compile the facts and create a flow chart of the major events in John Forrest’s life. Think about the values and qualities that were important to him. You may want to refer to the nine Values for Australian Schooling as a starting point. Go to the Values Education Australia website. Then, click on ‘National’, followed by ‘National Framework: Nine Values for Australian Schooling’. Assign values or qualities that reflected the events and decisions Forrest made in his life. Explain why that value or quality might have been important in determining the outcome of the decision or event.
  3. As a class, discuss the following questions.
    • What leadership skills did Forrest show by guiding Western Australia into Federation?
    • How do you think Forrest’s values influenced his attitudes and decisions about Federation?