Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Leopold Thomas Broinowski (1871–1937)

by Peter Boyer

This article was published:

Leopold Thomas Broinowski (1871-1937), political journalist, was born on 28 June 1871 at Carlton, Victoria, third son of Gracius Joseph Broinowski, artist and ornithologist, and his wife Jane, née Smith. His father had migrated from Poland in 1857 and his Australian-born mother was the daughter of a whaling captain. In 1880 Broinowski moved with the family to Sydney and attended St Ignatius' College, Riverview, where his father was drawing-master and his elder brother Gracius Herbert later taught science. He began an arts degree at the University of Sydney in 1889 but before graduating in 1897 he spent some years on his father's farm at Campbelltown and also began a teaching career, first as a private tutor, with his younger brother Robert Arthur among his pupils, then at Newington College, Sydney, and in Melbourne.

During the 1890s Broinowski became a strong Federationist and in 1898, abandoning studies for a law degree, was engaged by (Sir) Edmund Barton as a secretary. He accompanied Barton on the 1899 campaign in New South Wales and Queensland and his notes indicate its frantic pace and heavy physical and mental demands. He also worked with (Sir) R. R. Garran on the literary committee of the United Federal Executive, the co-ordinating body of the New South Wales Federation Leagues. After a period as journalist on the Goulburn Evening Penny Post, he moved to Hobart in 1902 to write editorial and special articles for the Mercury, becoming associate editor in 1904. He was also a regular contributor to the Bulletin.

In December 1922 Broinowski stood unsuccessfully as a National Party candidate for the Federal seat of Denison. 'States' rights' was a strong issue in Tasmania, and he modified his previous unequivocal Federalist stance by adopting the slogan 'Tasmania First'. In October 1921 he had been a member of a delegation to Melbourne which unsuccessfully tried to secure an amendment to the Navigation Act (1912) and he now maintained that Tasmania had been neglected and humiliated, and needed more substantial guarantees. During his campaign, he attracted some adverse criticism by advocating abolition of the Arbitration Court and reversion to a system of State wages boards.

After the 1922 election, Broinowski involved himself outside his profession largely with the welfare of returned servicemen and as an agitator on civic issues. He had already edited Tasmania's War Record 1914-18 (Hobart, 1921), and was awarded the Certificate of Merit by the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. In the late 1920s he was active in preparing the case for special financial help for Tasmania, a prelude to the establishment of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.

Broinowski's reputation rests chiefly on his newspaper writing, described in an obituary as 'clear and logical, concise and explanatory'. Through his journalism he had considerable influence in Tasmanian politics. Though by nature and reputation a conservative, his judgment was widely respected throughout State political circles, and after his death from cerebro-vascular disease in Hobart on 26 September 1937 the Labor premier, A. G. Ogilvie, gave him a glowing tribute. He was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery, survived by his wife Annie Coverdale, née Sorell, whom he had married in Hobart in 1908, and by a son and a daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Reynolds, Edmund Barton (Syd, 1948)
  • Mercury (Hobart), 22 Nov–16 Dec 1922, 28 Sept 1937
  • Bulletin, 6 Oct 1937
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter Boyer, 'Broinowski, Leopold Thomas (1871–1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 26 February 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]


28 June, 1871
Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


26 September, 1937 (aged 66)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.