Harry Lawson portrait

Harry Lawson, premier 1918-24
Title Premier Harry Lawson
Artist John Perry, after John Longstaff
Date 1981
Medium Oil on canvas

1120 x 940 x 60 mm

Premier 21st March 1918 – 28th April 1924

Sir Harry Sutherland Wightman Lawson was born on 5 March 1875 at Dunolly, Victoria and was educated at Castlemaine Grammar School and Scotch College. A prominent figure in the Castlemaine community, Lawson was elected to the Castlemaine Borough Council in 1898 and in January 1900 at age 24, won the Castlemaine by-election for the Legislative Assembly. Re-elected for Castlemaine and Maldon in 1904, Lawson continued in local politics as mayor of Castlemaine in 1905-1906 finally retiring from the Council in 1915.

In the Legislative Assembly, Lawson served as the President of the Board of Works and Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey 1913-1915, and the Attorney-General, Solicitor-General and Minister Public Instruction 1915-1917. When Sir John Bowser resigned as premier in March 1918, Lawson became leader of the National Party and premier. After the 1920 Election, Lawson was dependant on the support of the Country Party, and by 1923 was forced to govern with a combined National-Country Party ministry. In April 1924 he resigned as premier, continuing to serve as member for Castlemaine and Kyneton until October 1928.

Sir Harry Lawson’s achievements as premier include formation of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board, the Forest Commission, Charities Board, and the State Electricity Commission. On retiring from Victorian Parliament, he was elected to the federal senate where he served from 1928 to 1934. Harry Lawson died at East Melbourne on 12 June 1952.

This copy of ‘Portrait of Sir Harry Lawson’ 1923 by John Longstaff (original held at Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum) was presented to the Parliament of Victoria by the Lawson Family and the Perpetual Executors and Trustees Association of Australia Ltd in 1981.


© John Perry