Western Australia History

The Colonial Office appointed Western Australia’s first Sheriff, Richard Wells, in March, 1832. The Office of Sheriff is as old as the British legislation establishing a civil court in Western Australia in the same year. Richard Wells had previously been a clerk in the Colonial Secretary’s Office. Thus the Sheriff owed his origins not to action by the Governor, but to the Crown.

Further British legislation gave to the Governor the power to appoint a number of officers in the civil court, subject to the approval of the Crown. After any present vacancies were filled, all subsequent appointments were to be made by the Crown. It would seem that this legislation allowed the Governor some discretion in appointment, while the Crown retained ultimate control.

A man by the name of Dawson replaced Wells in July 1832. Wells’ successor also did not remain long in the position, resigning after returning to England in November, 1833.

The Colonial Office recommended to Governor Stirling that he appoint Humphrey Donaldson, who was about to proceed to the colony. He was sworn in on 9 September, 1834, but his term was cut short by his death in May 1835.

No significant development in the Office of Sheriff occurred until 1912, which marked the beginning of a sixty year period to 1972 when the Offices of Sheriff and Master of the Supreme Court of Western Australia were held concurrently by the same person.

In April 1970, the District Court of Western Australia was established. The new court’s needs were accommodated by separating the office of Sheriff and Master. Desmond Nicholls, who previously held the office of Deputy Sheriff, was appointed Sheriff of Western Australia and Bailiff of the District Court of Western Australia.

The Sheriffs of Western Australia since 1912 are:-

  • Francis Moseley «‹›» 1912 – 1919
  • Charles Sherard «‹›» 1919 – 1921
  • Thomas Davies «‹›» 1921 – 1939
  • Gregory Boylson «‹›» 1940 – 1967
  • Gordon Staples «‹›» 1972 – 1986
  • Colin Stewart Macphail «‹›» 1987 – date

Western Australia has an area of 2,526,000 square kilometres with a population (June, 1990) of 1,634,000. (Australia: 7,682,000 square kilometres – population 17,085,000) – Australian Bureau of Statistics 1991


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