Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Percy Draper (1864–1946)

by G. C. Bolton and Pat Simpson

This article was published:

Thomas Percy Draper (1864-1946), politician and judge, was born on 29 December 1864 at Warrington, Lancashire, England, son of Thomas Draper, tanner, and his wife Annie, née Webster. He was educated at Tonbridge School, 1880-83, and Clare College, Cambridge, 1883-86, taking first-class honours in classics. Called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in January 1891, he migrated that year to Western Australia, where he taught for a term at the High School, Perth, and practised law on the goldfields. Possibly through his prowess as a cricketer he soon attracted attention and advanced rapidly from associate to Mr Justice Alfred Hensman in 1892, to secretary of the Crown Law Department (1893); in private practice in 1894-96, he practised in Coolgardie in 1896-97 and became a partner in Parker & Parker in 1901. In 1898 he narrowly defeated Frank Wilson for an East Ward seat on the Perth City Council. He served on the works, health, and finance committees, and was interested in town planning until his resignation in 1901.

Draper was described in 1905 as having 'a saintly ascetic expression'. In spite of a diffident manner and squeaky treble voice, he succeeded in entering the Legislative Assembly at a by-election for West Perth in September 1907. A developer himself and a nominee of the (Liberal) National Political League, he campaigned in opposition to the land tax proposals of (Sir) Newton Moore's ministry, which were thought disadvantageous to urban landowners. His victory encouraged the Legislative Council to reject the bill and provoked a constitutional crisis. Draper remained on the Liberal back-benches, an occasional critic of government expenditure until, having become a King's Counsel in 1910, he retired next year to practise law.

In World War I Draper was chairman of the Red Cross in Western Australia and was appointed C.B.E. in 1918 for his work. He also served on the Senate of the University of Western Australia in 1914-1920. Returning to politics in 1917 as a Nationalist, he regained the West Perth seat and in May 1919 became attorney-general in (Sir) James Mitchell's first ministry. During his term the matrimonial laws were amended to recognize five years desertion as grounds for divorce. He introduced a number of changes to the Electoral Act, notably allowing women to run for parliament. His constituency included a high proportion of women and at the 1921 elections Draper lost the seat to Edith Cowan.

That year he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia. Until the appointment of (Sir) Walter Dwyer in 1925, Draper presided over much arbitration work; he was also judge in many important criminal trials. In 1939 he retired. His recreations at this time were golf, walking and bird-watching. On 15 July 1894, he had married Mabel Constance, daughter of (Sir Stephen) Henry Parker, senior partner in his firm. They had four sons and two daughters. She died in 1930 and on 9 April 1931 he married Bessie Melrose Barker, a widow. Draper died at West Perth on 11 July 1946 and was buried in the Anglican section of Karrakatta cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £938.

Select Bibliography

  • Truthful Thomas, Through the Spy-Glass (Perth, 1905)
  • C. T. Stannage, The People of Perth (Perth, 1979)
  • Western Mail (Perth), 5 Oct 1917
  • Australian Law Journal, 12 (1938-39)
  • West Australian, 22 Dec 1938, 12 July 1946.

Citation details

G. C. Bolton and Pat Simpson, 'Draper, Thomas Percy (1864–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 20 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


29 December, 1864
Warrington, Lancashire, England


11 July, 1946 (aged 81)
West Perth, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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