Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ewen Daniel Mackinnon (1903–1983)

by Norman Abjorensen

This article was published:

Ewen Mackinnon, by Carl Vandyk, n.d.

Ewen Mackinnon, by Carl Vandyk, n.d.

State Library of Victoria, H83.47/35

Ewen Daniel Mackinnon (1903-1983), grazier, politician and diplomat, was born on 11 February 1903 at Prahran, Melbourne, sixth of seven children of Victorian-born parents Donald Mackinnon, barrister, and his wife Hilda Eleanor Marie, née Bunny, sister of Rupert Bunny. His grandfather, Daniel Mackinnon, had been a squatter at Mordialloc on Port Phillip Bay in 1839. Educated at Geelong Church of England Grammar School, where he played cricket in the first XI and, like his brother Donald, edited the Corian, Dan followed his father and brother’s path to New College, Oxford (BA, 1924), and studied modern history. Back in Australia, he worked on family properties, first as a jackeroo on Marion Downs, south-west Queensland, and then on Marida Yallock, near Terang, Victoria. After his marriage on 1 June 1933 at Scots Church, Melbourne, to Muriel Jean Russell, a grazier, he farmed the Russells’ property, Langi Willi, Linton.

Having been commissioned in the Militia before World War II, Mackinnon joined the Australian Imperial Force and served in the Middle East (1940-42) as a captain in the 7th Division Cavalry Regiment and as a major in the 2/31st Battalion, before returning to Australia. He transferred to the Volunteer Defence Corps in 1944.

Mackinnon unsuccessfully contested the Federal seat of Wannon for the Liberal Party of Australia in 1946, but won it in 1949 and joined a large group of ex-servicemen elected to the newly enlarged parliament of that year. He lost the seat in 1951. At a 1953 by-election he gained the seat of Corangamite; regarded as a very good local member, he held it at five subsequent general elections. In parliament his speeches focused on country roads and telephone services, and other interests of primary producers. A member (1956-63) of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs (chairman 1962), he was recognised as a man of sound judgment. Frequently asked for advice by members from both within and outside the Liberal Party, he had actively encouraged, and campaigned for, a young farmer, (Sir) Henry Bolte, who first sought election to the Victorian parliament in 1945. Mackinnon retired from parliament in 1966. Appointed CBE that year, he was ambassador to Argentina (1967-70) and concurrently to Uruguay (1968-70) and Peru (1969-70).

Moustached, and silver-haired in his later years, Mackinnon was active in community organisations and was an elder of the Presbyterian Church. He was a director (1933-67) of Strachan & Co. Ltd, woolbrokers and stock and station agents, and a member (1934-50) of the Victorian board of the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney Ltd. A bastion of the Victorian establishment and more conservative than his father, he followed him and his brother as president (1972) of the Melbourne Club. Anthony Street, who succeeded Mackinnon in the seat of Corangamite, described him as ‘old-fashioned, subscribing to orthodox views, supporting those things that had stood the test of time and resisting the trend for alteration and latitude’. Keen on tennis and golf as a young man, he later owned and raced horses. Survived by his wife and their daughter and son, he died at South Yarra on 7 June 1983 and was buried in Skipton cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • N. Abjorensen, Leadership and the Liberal Revival (2007)
  • Parliamentary Debates (House of Represenatives), 12 Nov 1953, p 136
  • Herald (Melbourne), 27 July 1968, p 22
  • Corian, Sept 1983, p 208.

Citation details

Norman Abjorensen, 'Mackinnon, Ewen Daniel (1903–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Ewen Mackinnon, by Carl Vandyk, n.d.

Ewen Mackinnon, by Carl Vandyk, n.d.

State Library of Victoria, H83.47/35

Life Summary [details]


11 February, 1903
Prahran, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


7 June, 1983 (aged 80)
South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.