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Henry Doyle Moseley (1884–1956)

by G. C. Bolton

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Henry Doyle Moseley (1884-1956), magistrate, was born on 7 September 1884 in Perth, son of Francis Arnold Moseley, registrar of titles, and his wife Lucy Darling, née Johnson. Born in the Bahamas, Francis had emigrated to Western Australia with his wife in 1881; he was to become registrar of the Supreme Court in 1899. Henry was educated at the High School and Scotch College, Perth. He began work as a clerk in the Supreme Court in 1900 before joining the crown solicitor's office as clerk-librarian in 1913.

At Christ Church, Claremont, on 14 October 1908 Moseley had married 30-year-old Blanche May Durbridge (d.1924) with Anglican rites. Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 19 May 1916, he was commissioned on 15 May 1917; he joined the 51st Battalion on the Western Front in August 1918, but saw little action because of illness and was discharged in Perth on 16 August 1919 with the rank of lieutenant. Resuming his former post, he transferred to the solicitor general's office in 1921 and acted as usher of the Black Rod in State parliament in 1923. He served as a stipendiary magistrate at Carnarvon (1924-26) and Northam (1926-28), and as a police magistrate in Perth (from October 1928). On 24 January 1929 at St Mary's Anglican Church, Perth, he married Margaret de Castilla, the 22-year-old grand-daughter of A. P. Bussell.

Moseley's sentencing policy gained him the nickname 'Thirty Days'. Perceived as a fair and decisive adjudicator of decent common sense, he found himself in demand as a commissioner for difficult or controversial public inquiries. In 1934, accompanied by (Sir) Paul Hasluck, he travelled extensively as royal commissioner to investigate the treatment of Aborigines. His report largely upheld the authority of the Aborigines Department under A. O. Neville and reflected contemporary prejudices against 'half-castes', but it did urge mild reforms, such as granting permanency to Aboriginal reserves and substituting district protectors for police. In 1938, as royal commissioner examining the administration of Heathcote Mental Reception Home, he unravelled a tedious history of personality clashes; he recommended that the matron be moved and that clearer lines of communication be established. He also inquired into the situation of mortgaged wheat-farmers and chaired the Western Australian Railways' appeal board.

On 20 December 1939 Moseley was appointed temporary lieutenant colonel and seconded for full-time duty in the Militia as an intelligence and security staff officer at headquarters, Western Command. Early in 1942 he authorized the arrest of four members of the Australia First Movement; this action led to the internment of members in other States and to two convictions for sedition, even though the case against the Western Australians was based largely on the evidence of an agent provocateur, and the four charged had done no more than express solidarity with wartime enemies. Appointed deputy-director of security in May, Moseley was transferred to the Retired List in November 1944. As royal commissioner (1947-48) to inquire into alleged malpractices in the State housing commission, he found little evidence of impropriety and concluded that the commission had performed reasonably, though not outstandingly. He retired in May 1948.

Squarely built and 5 ft 7 ins (170 cm) tall, Moseley was a patron of the State branches of Toc H and the Young Men's Christian Association. He died on 6 October 1956 at his Claremont home and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. His wife survived him. The son of his second marriage predeceased him; the son of his first marriage, a flight lieutenant in the Royal Australian Air Force, was killed in action in 1942.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Muirden, The Puzzled Patriots (Melb, 1968)
  • G. C. Bolton, A Fine Country to Starve In (Perth, 1972)
  • P. Hasluck, Mucking About (Melb, 1977)
  • T. Austen, Something Worth While (Perth, 1992)
  • Cygnet, vol 17, no 3, 1956
  • West Australian, 8 Oct 1956
  • personal knowledge.

Citation details

G. C. Bolton, 'Moseley, Henry Doyle (1884–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


7 September, 1884
Perth, Western Australia, Australia


6 October, 1956 (aged 72)
Claremont, Perth, Western Australia, 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.