Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Martin Edward Jull (1862–1917)

by Merab Harris Tauman

This article was published:

Martin Edward Jull (1862-1917), public servant, was born on 18 January 1862 at Horsham, Sussex, England, son of Thomas Jull, pharmacist, and his wife Elizabeth Vincent Float, née Burtenshaw. Educated at Brighton Grammar School, he was apprenticed in 1879-82 to T. G. Warden & Co., auctioneers, valuers and estate agents of London; he was subsequently employed by Weatherell & Green. After a prolonged sea voyage including Ceylon, Japan, New Zealand and 'unfrequented places in the South Seas', a voyage taken on medical advice, he returned to Weatherell's until 25 March 1886 when he migrated to Western Australia.

Employed first by the Perth Daily News, Jull joined the Department of Public Works and Railways, nominally as a draughtsman but actually as private secretary to the director J. A. Wright. In 1887 he was attracted to Melbourne, then in the late phases of its land boom, and worked for the Coburg Reserve Estate Co. Ltd, managing suburban branches and deputizing for the manager during an absence from the colony.

In May 1891 Jull returned to Perth as chief clerk in the Department of Public Works and Railways. With Charles Yelverton O'Connor, who arrived in June to become engineer-in-chief and acting general manager of railways, he formed an association which extended through a period of unprecedented expansion and activity caused by the gold rushes and Sir John Forrest's determined policies. Their official association and personal friendship, lasting until O'Connor's death in 1902, was said by J. S. Battye to be the reason for the 'forward condition of public works and useful services throughout the State'. In 1895-96, works and railways became separate departments. O'Connor remained as engineer-in-chief for public works while Jull became under-secretary with responsibility for all but the engineering branches. They made a superb team. Both were forward thinkers concerned that the department should give the best possible service in rapidly changing circumstances, and both recommended, as prerequisite, improved methods of recruiting, training and promoting staff.

On 12 November 1898 Jull married a young Scottish doctor, then practising in Perth, Roberta Henrietta Margaritta Stewart. They settled at Brookside in the Armadale district, a property including orchards and vineyards where Jull shared with his colleague, friend and best man, Ernest E. Salter, a keen interest in horticultural experiments; he was credited with importing several new types of vines. Although they had not succeeded in selling this property, the Julls and their daughter, later the distinguished author Henrietta Drake-Brockman, in 1909 moved from Brookside to Longviews at Cottesloe.

Jull left the Department of Works in April 1905 to become the first public service commissioner under the terms of the Public Service Act, 1904. An admirable choice for his proven administrative capacity, personal integrity and wide experience, he became responsible in 1905-06 for 'the biggest reform yet attempted in this State', the reorganization of the entire public service, commencement of the formidable task of classification, provision of guide-lines for the service and establishment of machinery for recruiting, training and promotion. In his initial report covering the first fourteen months of the operation of the commission Jull declared that 'selection by examination … combined with reasonable security of tenure is the safest method in the long run of building up an efficient and honest permanent civil service. The incentive being to serve the country apart from any particular party'. Responsible public servants acknowledged that these principles were an excellent basis for classification. Despite political instability and shortage of funds for appropriate salaries, Jull was determined to complete the creation of an effective service free of patronage, and twice accepted extension of his term.

Jull was a handsome man of distinguished bearing, wide interests and cultivated tastes. A devout Anglican, he was a member of the diocesan council and an honorary lay reader. With a wide circle of friends both in and out of Western Australia, some of them from his schooldays, he was actively interested in cricket, boating, swimming, sailing, and cycling. He worked actively in the Young Men's Christian Association from its foundation in the State. Though his position as commissioner made him appear remote to many in the public service, those who worked with him as chairman of the Civil Service War Distress Committee during the last two years of his life recognized his compassion for those facing suffering.

Jull died of cerebral haemorrhage on 14 March 1917 at his home, following a diving mishap. He was buried in Karrakatta cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • Parliamentary Papers (Commonwealth), 1904-05, 2 (27), p 1819
  • Civil Service Journal (Perth), 11 (1917), no 105, p 1, 12, 19 (1929), no 217, p 71
  • West Australian, 15 Nov 1898
  • M. E. and (Dr) R. Jull papers (State Library of Western Australia).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Merab Harris Tauman, 'Jull, Martin Edward (1862–1917)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


18 January, 1862
Horsham, Sussex, England


14 March, 1917 (aged 55)
Cottesloe, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death


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