Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Herbert Stanley (Stan) Barnett (1896–1981)

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Herbert Stanley (Stan) Barnett (1896-1981), farmer and entrepreneur, was born on 3 June 1896 at Gordon, Tasmania, fourth child of Henry Ralph Barnett, storekeeper, and his wife Jane Taylor, née Lambert. Educated at Queen’s College and The Hutchins School, Hobart, Stan trained as an electrical engineer and was employed in 1916-17 as a junior assistant-engineer in the Postmaster-General’s Department. Having been mobilised in the Militia as a corporal in the 36th Fortress Company, Engineers, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 17 December 1917. He was posted to the Australian Flying Corps next month and commissioned in April 1918. Arriving in England in August, he had begun training as a pilot when the war ended. His AIF appointment terminated in Tasmania on 25 February 1920. On 10 December 1924 at Launceston he married with Methodist forms Annie Edith Humphreys. Combining farming with business, he was a director (1921-38) of the Hobart firm Barnett Brothers Pty Ltd, auctioneers and merchants, and part-owner in 1930-45 of two farms, one in the Huon district and the other at Randalls Bay. He was also involved in real estate development, particularly property subdivisions.

In the 1930s Barnett proposed forming a company to erect a toll bridge across the River Derwent at Hobart. (Sir) Allan Knight, then an engineer with the Department of Public Works, had conceived the idea and designed a structure. Despite opposition to construction of the bridge by private enterprise, criticism of the design (a curved arch made up of twenty-four reinforced concrete floating sections), and allegations that the real objective of the promoters was land speculation on the eastern shore, the Ogilvie government approved the controversial project, estimated to cost £250,000. Barnett, managing director of the Hobart Bridge Co. Ltd, arranged the necessary finance (principally from City Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd), and construction, under the supervision of officers of the Department of Public Works, began in April 1938. On 4 December 1943, shortly before the bridge was to open, an exceptionally intense storm caused damage to the structure. Repairs, costing less than £10,000, were carried out and the bridge opened for traffic on 22 December. Nevertheless the underwriters regarded the bridge as a total loss and paid the bridge company £250,000 in full settlement. In 1944 the government acquired the bridge and other company assets and paid an undisclosed amount of compensation. Barnett, who owned land on the eastern shore, subdivided it into suburban housing blocks.

Sharp and shrewd, with a good head for business, Barnett was founding chairman (1951-76) of the Tasmanian board of City Mutual. He was for many years involved with the Legacy Club of Hobart, serving (1949-50) as president, and helping to raise much money for the organisation. In January 1947, with two partners, Barnett bought a property known as Bronte in central Tasmania. The land was resumed by the Hydro-Electric Commission in May, provoking extensive litigation. He and his wife and their son purchased Quamby, near Hagley, in 1956 and restored the historic homestead, at one time the home of Sir Richard Dry. Barnett had no serious religious affiliations until the 1960s, when he became a regular worshipper at the Christian Brethren’s Murray Street Chapel. Survived by his wife and their son and daughter, he died on 23 August 1981 in Hobart and was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • A Dream is Realised (1943)
  • E. G. Robertson and E. N. Craig, Early Houses of Northern Tasmania (1964)
  • G. W. Cox, Ships in Tasmanian Waters (1971)
  • P. C. Wickens, The City Mutual Story (1978)
  • Mercury (Hobart), 25 Aug 1981, p 12
  • series B2455, Barnett Herbert Stanley (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

'Barnett, Herbert Stanley (Stan) (1896–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


3 June, 1896
Gordon, Tasmania, Australia


23 August, 1981 (aged 85)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.