Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Joseph Edward Broadbent (1883–1948)

by R. J. N. Bannenberg

This article was published:

Joseph Edward Broadbent (1883-1948), parliamentary draftsman, was born on 14 December 1883 at Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, son of Kendall Broadbent (1837-1911) and his wife Maria, née Boreham, both English-born. His father was a noted ornithologist, who worked for thirty years at the Queensland Museum. Educated at the Kelvin Grove State School, Joseph won a scholarship to Brisbane Grammar School and matriculated at the University of Sydney in 1898. A keen student of the classics, he accumulated texts throughout his life.

Entering the Queensland Public Service in 1900, Broadbent served successively in the Stores Department, Stamp Office and Justice Department, becoming in 1917 parliamentary secretary to the government. In this role, he wrote the pamphlets Socialism at Work (1917) and Administrative Actions of the Labour Government in Queensland … (1924).

Admitted to the Queensland Bar in 1919, he was appointed assistant parliamentary draftsman in 1925 and, on the elevation of J. L. Woolcock to the bench in December 1926, became parliamentary draftsman from 10 February 1927. Besides attending to bills during this period, Broadbent was deeply involved in the production, often outside working hours, of numerous statutory collections and annotations. He was member of the editorial board for volumes 1-9 of the 1939 consolidation, The Public Acts of Queensland (reprint); he edited several statute compilations including Labour Laws of Queensland and Queensland Liquor Laws and the Queensland Digest of Case Law 1861-1924. He was also the State's contributor to the Journal of the Society of Comparative Legislation. His work of collection and clarification was of special importance to a scattered professional body, often far from libraries, and it was recognized in 1932 by the award of the Imperial Service Order.

Broadbent retained an active interest in Brisbane Grammar School, serving as a trustee in 1920-32 and in 1939-47 as vice-chairman; he was president of the old boys' association in 1929 and donated a prize which still subsists. He also served as trustee of the Brisbane Girls' Grammar School in 1920-32 and 1939-47. In the 1930s he undertook evening studies at the University of Queensland (B.A., 1936); he then worked towards a law degree. An unpublished work on Queensland legislation, held in the university library and marked 'thesis', suggests further unrealized ambitions.

The pressure upon Broadbent as sole draftsman was considerable and the strain of his work-load began to tell, especially through the war years when he suffered recurrent illness. He died of arteriosclerotic heart disease at West End, Brisbane, on 14 December 1948, the day after his official retirement. Cremated after a Baptist service, he was survived by his wife Daisy Stewart, née Nelson, whom he had married on 10 June 1914, and by a daughter. He is unanimously recalled by contemporaries as a kindly, courteous gentleman with a sense of humour and a dry wit whose generosity was legendary and whose friendship was prized.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Lack (ed), Three Decades of Queensland Political History, 1929-1960 (Brisb, 1962)
  • Brisbane Grammar School Magazine, June 1949
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 16 Dec 1948.

Citation details

R. J. N. Bannenberg, 'Broadbent, Joseph Edward (1883–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 December, 1883
Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


14 December, 1948 (aged 65)
West End, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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