Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Brice Frederick Bunny (1820–1885)

by Judith A. Samuel

This article was published:

Brice Frederick Bunny (1820-1885), lawyer and politician, was baptized on 1 March 1820 in Newbury, Berkshire, England, the second son of Jere Brice Bunny and his wife Clara, née Slowcock. The Bunny family, one of the oldest in Berkshire, had settled there in the days of King John. Frederick was educated at Eton and in 1839 entered Lincoln's Inn. He was called to the Bar in May 1844. He was beginning to establish himself as a reliable and competent equity barrister in London when he heard of gold discoveries in Australia. His aim when he arrived at Melbourne in October 1852 was to make a quick fortune and return to England. He did neither. He was to be thankful that he had followed the advice of Vice-Chancellor Bacon in bringing his law books instead of a pick and spade. After six months of unsuccessful digging at Forest Creek he returned to Melbourne where he was called to the Bar in October 1853 and quickly became a leading equity barrister: according to the Argus, 3 June 1885, 'there was hardly a suit of any importance in which he was not the leading counsel on one side'. He appeared frequently in important mining disputes and land litigations during the turbulent years of the gold rushes.

In 1856 Bunny married Maria Wulsten, a German beauty who had followed him to Australia. They took up residence in St Kilda, where he became interested in local affairs, sat in the Municipal Council in 1861-69, and was its chairman in 1862-64. In 1866 Bunny and John Snowball were elected to the Legislative Assembly for St Kilda as anti-ministerialists. Bunny strongly opposed the McCulloch ministry's policy towards the Legislative Council and its attempt to make a grant to Lady Darling. He did not seek re-election in 1868.

In 1873 he was appointed an acting County Court judge but found the appointment uncongenial. Already his health was failing and his appointment next year as commissioner of titles proved too arduous although it suited his temperament and experience. During his last eighteen months he suffered much pain. He tried to carry on his duties despite blindness in one eye. A visit to England did not improve his health. He died on 2 June 1885 at St Kilda, Victoria, leaving three sons, one of them a barrister, and three daughters; his wife died in 1902.

Bunny was a torrential speaker, a linguist, a music lover, and widely read. His youngest son, Rupert, became a notable Australian painter.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • J. L. Forde, The Story of the Bar of Victoria (Melb, 1913)
  • J. B. Cooper, The History of St. Kilda: From its First Settlement to a City and After, 1840 to 1930, vol 1 (Melb, 1931)
  • Prahran Telegraph, 5 June 1885.

Citation details

Judith A. Samuel, 'Bunny, Brice Frederick (1820–1885)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




2 June, 1885 (aged ~ 65)
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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