Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Sir Edward Carlile (1845–1917)

by Ross Gibbs

This article was published:

Edward Carlile (1845-1917), by Johnstone, O'Shannessy & Co.

Edward Carlile (1845-1917), by Johnstone, O'Shannessy & Co.

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H26480

Sir Edward Carlile (1845-1917), parliamentary draftsman, was born on 26 April 1845 in London, son of John Carlile, merchant of Houston, Scotland, and his wife Anne, née Williams. The family arrived in Victoria in 1854, and Edward was educated at Dr T. P. Fenner's collegiate school, Prahran. In May 1861 he became a clerk in the Census Office. He was appointed to the staff of the Registrar-General's Office in 1862, and after passing the civil service law examination was transferred to the Crown Law Office in 1865. He was the law gold medallist at the University of Melbourne in 1869-70, and was admitted to the Bar in 1871, becoming parliamentary and professional assistant to the law officers of the Crown in 1873.

On 27 April 1878 at the Catholic Apostolic Church, Carlton, Carlile married Isabella Sophia, daughter of Robert Hunter Young of Edinburgh. He was appointed parliamentary draftsman upon the creation of that position in July 1879, but at the request of the Speaker, Peter Lalor, he became clerk assistant of the Legislative Assembly in April 1882. His historical and legal survey of the constitution and form of government of the various Australasian colonies was published as an appendix to the Victorian Year-Book for 1883-4. In April 1889 he returned to his position as parliamentary draftsman with much improved status and salary. His Comparative Analysis of the Australian Commonwealth Bill 1891 and Four Federal Constitutions was published in Melbourne in 1897. His standing in the legal profession was recognized in 1900 when he was appointed Q.C. Carlile retired in 1910 and visited England and Europe, but on his return was asked to supervise parliamentary bills for the session of 1912. Next year he was knighted.

Diligent and energetic in his professional duties, Carlile personally supervised the drafting of most Victorian legislation during his term of office. He fought strenuously to uphold and improve the status and responsibilities of the new office of parliamentary draftsman, in particular mounting an impressive personal campaign to obtain the support of the Victorian Bar in resisting a proposal to downgrade the position in 1899. He served as a trustee of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery from July 1902 (honorary treasurer in 1911-17); he was a committee-member of the Melbourne Hospital and the Athenaeum Club (president in 1916); and a councillor of the Working Men's College and the Old Colonists' Association. He founded the Civil Service Rowing Club in 1866, was its president for many years, and was also prominent in the Victorian Rowing Association.

Carlile died of cerebro-vascular disease at his home, Yarraby, South Yarra, on 15 November 1917 and was buried in Brighton cemetery after a service conducted by a minister of the Catholic Apostolic faith. He was survived by his wife, three daughters and a son. His elder son had been killed in February 1917 while serving with the Australian Imperial Force in France.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • W. Perry, The Science Museum of Victoria (Melb, 1972)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Victoria), 1879-80, 1499-1502
  • Age (Melbourne), 16 Nov 1917
  • Argus (Melbourne), 16 Nov 1917
  • Carlile papers (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

Ross Gibbs, 'Carlile, Sir Edward (1845–1917)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 13 April 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

Edward Carlile (1845-1917), by Johnstone, O'Shannessy & Co.

Edward Carlile (1845-1917), by Johnstone, O'Shannessy & Co.

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H26480

Life Summary [details]


26 April, 1845
London, Middlesex, England


15 November, 1917 (aged 72)
South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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