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John Thomas Hill Goodwin (1865–1950)

by Jack Taylor

This article was published:

John Thomas Hill Goodwin (1865-1950), by unknown photographer

John Thomas Hill Goodwin (1865-1950), by unknown photographer

National Archives of Australia, A3560:628

John Thomas Hill Goodwin (1865-1950), surveyor and community leader, was born on 28 October 1865 at Yelta, near Mildura, Victoria, son of Rev. Thomas Hill Goodwin, an Anglican clergyman from England, and his Irish-born wife Letitia Going, née Pennefather. Educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, John served as a pupil-surveyor and draughtsman with the Victorian Department of Lands and Surveys. From 1891 he practised privately in Victoria, save for stints with the Western Australian and Victorian governments in 1896-99 and 1907-10 respectively. He also qualified as a civil engineer.

On 5 April 1893 at Christ Church, Ballarat, Goodwin had married Harriet Mary Turton (d.1933). Commissioned (1891) in the Victorian Military Forces, in 1910 he was appointed lieutenant, Corps of Australian Engineers, Militia. Although he volunteered for active service in World War I, he was retained in Australia and retired from the Militia in 1920 as honorary lieutenant colonel.

Having entered the Federal Department of Home Affairs in 1910, Goodwin handled property transactions on behalf of the Commonwealth in regard to defence, quarantine, and posts and telegraphs. Five years later he was promoted chief surveyor and estates officer (subsequently surveyor-general and director of lands). In addition, he was officer-in-charge of the administration of the Federal Capital Territory (1916-24) and a member (1921-25) of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee which made recommendations for the building of Canberra. After the Federal Capital Commission was formed to control the city's development, in January 1925 he was seconded to it as lands officer, but returned to the public service that year. Rather than leave Canberra, he retired on 31 December. He held a grazing lease for a few years and presided over the Federal Territory Lessees' Association before resuming private surveying.

Appointed M.B.E. in 1927, in his semi-retirement Goodwin retained a deep attachment to his adopted city, becoming involved in community service and local politics. He helped to form (1929) the Horticultural Society of Canberra and was acting-president (1938-39) of the local division of the Australian Red Cross Society. Keenly interested in swimming, tennis, cricket and rifle-shooting, he assisted in the organization of these activities and was also a Boy Scouts' commissioner. As a foundation member of the Canberra Relief Society, he did much to alleviate suffering during the Depression.

Goodwin was an elected member of the F.C.T. (Australian Capital Territory) Advisory Council in 1931-43 (chairman 1936-41) and of the Canberra Community Hospital board in 1938-48. He served on the National Capital Planning and Development Committee in 1939-41. From 1930 he had been a special magistrate, Court of Petty Sessions, and for many years carried out the duties of coroner. Selfless and genial, 'Goodie' was a 'father figure to the city'. He died on 18 September 1950 in Canberra and was buried in the graveyard of the Anglican Church of St John the Baptist, Reid. His name is commemorated by Goodwin Retirement Villages Inc. which provides accommodation for Canberra's aged. Two of his three sons survived him; the eldest, Brigadier S. T. W. Goodwin, had been killed in action in New Guinea in 1943.

Select Bibliography

  • F. M. Johnston, Knights and Theodolites (Syd, 1962)
  • L. Wigmore, The Long View (Melb, 1963)
  • J. Gibbney, Canberra 1913-1953 (Canb, 1988)
  • Lands and Surveys Branch, Department of Home Affairs, Annual Report, 1912-13, p 20
  • Canberra and District Historical Society Journal, Dec 1970, p 9
  • Queanbeyan Age, 8 Dec 1925
  • Canberra Times, 13 May 1927, 18, 31 Jan 1929, 26 Nov 1930, 12 Oct 1933, 19, 20 Sept 1950, 12 Mar 1963.

Citation details

Jack Taylor, 'Goodwin, John Thomas Hill (1865–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

John Thomas Hill Goodwin (1865-1950), by unknown photographer

John Thomas Hill Goodwin (1865-1950), by unknown photographer

National Archives of Australia, A3560:628

Life Summary [details]


28 October, 1865
Yelta, Victoria, Australia


18 September, 1950 (aged 84)
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

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