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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Forrest, Hon. Sir John

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Forrest, Hon. Sir John, K.C.M.G., F.L.S., F.R.G.S., F.G.S., Premier of Western Australia, the third son of William Forrest, of Leschenault, near Bunbury, W. A., was born in that colony on August 22nd, 1847, and educated at the Bishop's School, Perth. In 1865 he entered the Survey Department of Western Australia, and in 1869 was selected to command an exploring expedition into the interior in search of the remains of Dr. Leichardt. In 1870 he commanded an exploring expedition from Perth to Adelaide along the south coast, and proved the practicability of the route for the telegraph line, which was afterwards erected. In 1874 he commanded an exploring expedition from Champion Bay, on the west coast, to the overland telegraph between Adelaide and Port Darwin, a journey of nearly 2000 miles, without the aid of camels, and with horses only. For these services he received the thanks of the Governor and Legislative Council, and was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, May 22nd, 1876, and was also presented by the Imperial Government with a grant in fee of 5000 acres of land. In 1876 he was appointed Deputy Surveyor-General of Western Australia. In 1878 and 1882 he conducted the trigonometrical surveys of the Nickol Bay District, and the Gascoyne and Lyons District, in North-Western Australia. From Sept. 1878 to Jan. 1879 Mr. Forrest was Acting Commissioner of Crown Lands and Surveyor-General. He is a justice of the peace for Western Australia, and acted as Comptroller of Convicts from May 1880 to July 1881. In Jan. 1883 he was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands and Surveyor-General of Western Australia, with a seat in the Executive and Legislative Councils. In March 1883 and April 1886 he proceeded to the Kimberley district, North-Western Australia, on behalf of the Government, to specially report on its character and capabilities. Mr. Forrest is the author of "Explorations in Australia, 1876," and of "Notes on Western Australia, 1884-7." In 1874, such was his repute as an explorer, that the Governor of Western Australia, Sir Frederick Weld, in writing to Lord Carnarvon, said: "Mr. Forrest's expedition has bridged the gap that separated Western Australia from the other colonies, has led to settlement on the shores of the Great Bight, and to the connection of this colony with the rest of the world by electric telegraph. I never doubted of the future of Western Australia from the day when the news of Mr. Forrest's success reached Perth." In 1876 Mr. Forrest married Margaret Elvire, eldest daughter of Mr. Edward Hamersley, of Pyrton, near Guilford, W.A., and in the same year was created a Chevalier of the Order of the Crown of Italy by Victor Emmanuel. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Italian Geographical Society and of the Imperial Geographical Societies of Vienna and St. Petersburg. He was created C.M.G. in 1882; proceeded to Cambridge Gulf, in the extreme north, in 1886, and selected the site of the town of Wyndham. In the same year he was mainly responsible for the Land Act passed by the Legislative Council, rendering alienation conditional on improvements. He was a member of the local commission for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886, and was one of the delegates of Western Australia to the Colonial Conference held in London in 1887. In Dec. 1890 Mr. Forrest was returned unopposed to the first Legislative Assembly for Bunbury, and became first Premier and Treasurer of Western Australia under responsible government. In March 1891 he represented the colony at the Sydney Federation Convention, and in June 1891 he was created K.C.M.G.