Robert Randolph Garran, the ‘first’ Commonwealth public servant

Robert Randolph Garran, the ‘first’ Commonwealth public servant
Monday 9 September 2019

Colin Milner, a PhD candidate at the School of History will be presenting his paper on Robert Garran at the National Library on Thursday 19 September from 12:30pm in meeting rooms 2-3 on level 4.

Colin's paper will draw on his current thesis research towards a biographical study of Garran (1867-1957) who was an important figure in the creation of the Australian Commonwealth, serving as the first Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department from 1901 to 1932 and concurrently as the inaugural Solicitor-General from 1916. Garran's 'public service' encompassed bureaucratic, cultural, diplomatic and intellectual leadership in a developing framework of national, imperial and international institutions; his involvement in public life in Australia stretched from the 1890s to the 1950s. The earliest generation of Commonwealth public servants (compared to the politicians) has arguably received less scholarly attention than the later post-war reconstruction generation and Garran's story is a rich and challenging one to seek to tell in a comprehensive manner. Colin is developing a nation-building theme for his thesis and will welcome comments on his 'work in progress'.

Colin is a PhD candidate in the School of History at ANU on an Australian Government Research Training Program Stipend Scholarship. A graduate in Arts and Law from the University of Sydney, he was formerly a public servant and diplomat, and is admitted as a Barrister of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. He has published chapters in Australia and the United Nations, ed. James Cotton and David Lee (Sydney: Longueville Books and DFAT, 2012) and in Australia and the World: A Festschrift for Neville Meaney, ed. Joan Beaumont and Matthew Jordan (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2013). He is also editing a book of documents for DFAT's Documents on Australian Foreign Policy series on Australia and Nauru, covering the period from the end of the Second World War until Nauru's independence in 1968. Colin has also worked professionally as a singer in the Western classical tradition.





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