Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John George Hunter (1888–1964)

by Brenda Heagney

This article was published:

John George Hunter (1888-1964), medical administrator, was born on 19 September 1888 at Ultimo, Sydney, son of William Fyfe Hunter, a loomturner from Scotland, and his native-born wife Ellen Jane, née Sloane. Educated at Fort Street Model School and the University of Sydney (B.Sc., 1909; M.B., 1915; Ch.M., 1946), John interrupted his studies to act as biologist on (Sir) Douglas Mawson's Australasian Antarctic Expedition in 1911-14. After graduating, Hunter worked briefly as a resident at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children. On 10 February 1916 at St Philip's Anglican Church, Sydney, he married Clarice Mary Walker, a nurse.

As captain, Australian Army Medical Corps, Australian Imperial Force, Hunter served on the Western Front with the 9th Field Ambulance (1916-17) and in England with the 2nd Australian General Hospital (1917-18). He returned to Sydney, went into general practice in turn at Mascot and Botany, and was honorary assistant-physician (1923-29) at Sydney Hospital and honorary physician (1927-29) at Royal South Sydney Hospital. In 1929 he was appointed full-time medical secretary of the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association. Next year he organized its first postgraduate course for medical practitioners and presided over the official opening of B.M.A. House at 135 Macquarie Street; in 1959 he achieved his aim of clearing the debt on the building.

Hunter was also general secretary (from 1933) of the B.M.A.'s Federal Council in Australia. He taught medical ethics at the university, delivering 'very neat lectures on good manners for medical men'. In 1941 he was mobilized in the Militia as major, and performed staff and medical duties in Sydney until 1943. An outstanding organizer, he helped to establish the Hospitals Contribution and Medical Benefits funds of Australia. For fifteen years he was secretary for Australasia of the World Medical Association and in 1961-64 chaired the Australian Council of Social Service.

In the 1940s Hunter had opposed with 'almost religious fervour' the Federal Labor government's 'free medicine scheme'. Presenting him with the gold medal (1956) of the Australian branch of the B.M.A., the federal president (Sir) Cecil Colville observed that: 'He more than any single person, was responsible for the success of the fight . . . against the Chifley government in its attempt to place a galling yoke of subservience on the necks of the members of the medical profession'. In 1957 Hunter was appointed C.B.E. Regarded as the 'chief architect' of the Australian Medical Association which was formed in 1962, he drafted its code of ethics.

Hunter was neither a publicity seeker nor a remote administrator. A man of integrity, he was reserved, modest and loyal, willing to help his colleagues at all times. He retired in 1962 and pursued his hobbies of fishing and gardening. That year the A.M.A. established the J. G. Hunter testimonial fund to finance a prize or scholarship in his honour and to commission his portrait. Painted by (Sir) William Dargie, it hangs in the A.M.A.'s Canberra office. Hunter died on 27 December 1964 in his home at Lilli Pilli, Sydney, and was cremated; his wife, daughter and four sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, Senior Year Book, 1946-47
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 1 Sept 1962, p 350, 10 July 1965, p 89.

Citation details

Brenda Heagney, 'Hunter, John George (1888–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 20 July 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

Life Summary [details]


19 September, 1888
Ultimo, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


27 December, 1964 (aged 76)
Lilli Pilli, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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