Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Daniel Stern Mulley (1891–1964)

by John Atchison

This article was published:

Daniel Stern Mulley (1891-1964), surveyor-general, was born on 19 February 1891 at Kogarah, Sydney, fourth child of English-born parents Daniel Mulley, gardener, and his wife Anna Louisa, née Stocks. Educated at Kogarah Superior Public School, young Dan entered the Department of Lands on 7 April 1908. After serving as a cadet draughtsman, he was articled in 1911 as field-assistant to L. S. Ferrier and R. A. Holmes. He was gazetted as a licensed surveyor on 21 October 1914. On 20 March 1916 Mulley enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Commissioned in September, he sailed for England two months later. He served with the 1st Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front from April 1917 and was mentioned in dispatches. Following the Armistice, he was promoted temporary captain and posted as an instructor, A.I.F. Survey School, Southampton. He shared with his old mentor Ferrier the teaching of computations, astronomy and geodesy. From a class of seventy-five young surveyors emerged one Commonwealth, four State and one Malay States surveyors-general.

Mulley's A.I.F. appointment terminated in Sydney on 27 September 1919. At St George's Anglican Church, Hurstville, on 17 December that year he married Winifred Welch. Returning to the Department of Lands, he was in turn staff surveyor (1919-26) at Orange and senior surveyor (1926-41) at Grafton. With the outbreak of war in the Pacific, he led the civilian organization which carried out mapping of the coastal strip for defence purposes under the emergency mapping programme, a task necessitating close liaison with Hugh Clews and A. M. Allen. While employed as district surveyor (1942-46) at Goulburn, Mulley mapped the snow belt and enjoyed 'long days on horseback inspecting the vast area in his charge'.

Succeeding Allen as surveyor-general and chief mining surveyor on 14 August 1946, Mulley also became director of mapping in 1951. The Survey Co-ordination Act (1949) and the survey co-ordination branch stemmed from his initiatives, as did the Central Mapping Authority of New South Wales. He reorganized the mapping branch and installed modern equipment with the latest techniques in photogrammetry and geodetic surveying. In 1948 he had sent John Middleton abroad to acquire familiarity with best international practice. Despite the Public Service Board's opposition to Mulley, his achievements were long lasting. He was an able president of the Board of Surveyors, a member of the National Mapping Council of Australia and the Commonwealth electoral Redistribution Committee for New South Wales, chairman of the National Parks Committee and deputy-chairman of the Kosciusko State Park Trust. A tall, solid man, he was genial and energetic, noted for his integrity, ability and willingness to assist fellow-surveyors. He particularly fostered the careers of 'digger' surveyors.

In May 1953 Mulley was obliged to retire on grounds of ill health. He later surveyed Lord Howe Island for titles allocation. Bowls was his main recreation, and he remained interested in the activities of the State division of the Institution of Surveyors. Survived by his wife and two daughters, he died on 10 July 1964 at his Killara home and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Women's Weekly, 16 Mar 1946, p 9, 14 Sept 1946, p 10
  • Australian Surveyor, Mar 1955, p 182, Sept 1964, p 229
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2 Oct 1953
  • private information.

Citation details

John Atchison, 'Mulley, Daniel Stern (1891–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 23 May 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]


19 February, 1891
Kogarah, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


10 July, 1964 (aged 73)
Killara, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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