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Sir Frederick Napier Broome 1883-1889

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Alternate image text Sir Frederick Broome's six years in office were tumultuous with continuous clashes with senior officials despite the fact that he personally supported calls for self-government for WA.

His name is familiar throughout Australia because the popular tourist town of Broome in WA's north west is named after him. Sir Frederick was born in Canada and from an early age had a hankering to pursue possibilities within the colonial empire. At 15, he went to New Zealand and worked in pastoral pursuits. He visited England in 1864 where he met his future wife and then returned to New Zealand to continue sheep farming until 1869. The couple moved back to England and Sir Frederick began writing for The Times newspaper.

He also published two volumes of verse. He first found employment with the Colonial Office in 1875 and spent the next seven years working in Natal and then Mauritius where he was eventually appointed Lieutenant-Governor. He became WA's Governor in 1882, assuming office in 1883, and receiving a knighthood in 1884. But on taking up his position, he found the colony's economy was not in good shape so in 1885 he visited England to see what could be done to help with finances.

He set up a system of borrowing that resulted in some expansion as well as some extensions to the railways and telegraphs. However, the mood was that the future success of the colony depended on a bigger system of government. Sir Frederick was converted to this popular view and helped facilitate the granting of responsible government to WA. With this came a duty for the Governor to act as intermediary between the Legislative Council of WA and the Secretary of State in England. After considerable discussion, the details of the new Constitution were settled and a Bill, drafted by Broome, was approved by the British Parliament. Sir Frederick and two leading members of the WA Parliament travelled to London to allay fears there about the transfer of huge tracts of Crown land.

The Cyclopedia of Western Australia writes that Sir Frederick "had the best interests of the colony at heart, and it is due to his untiring energy that this State has reaped such a large measure of success". When Governor Broome left, the colony was coping with a gold boom, had a flourishing pastoral industry, and three major railways, north, south and east of the capital were under construction. His tenure as Governor came to an end with his mission to England in 1890. There were those who criticised him for his overbearing attitude, his lack of tact and his quarrels with subordinates that reputedly marred his "otherwise great career".

His next appointment was acting Governor of the Barbados in the West Indies and then Governor of Trinidad. He died in London in 1896.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Government of Western Australia acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.