Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Edward Joseph Mulvany (1871–1951)

by Ian Carnell

This article was published:

Edward Joseph Mulvany (1871-1951), public servant, was born on 17 February 1871 at St Kilda, Melbourne, son of Michael Mulvany, carpenter, and his wife Johanna, née Ryan, both Irish born. Educated at the Christian Brothers' College, East St Kilda, after his matriculation he entered the Victorian Department of Customs in May 1888. He was a member of the Australian Natives' Association, and for a time president of its Brunswick branch, and in 1894 was president of the Catholic Young Men's Society. On 25 October 1899 he married Annie Hegarty, a schoolteacher, at St Francis' Church, Melbourne.

Mulvany transferred to the Commonwealth Public Service after Federation, and served a period in the office of the minister C. C. Kingston. In 1912 he took charge of the customs branch at the high commissioner's office, London, travelling throughout Europe, Canada and the United States of America to assess dutiable values. At the beginning of World War I he was involved in gathering information about firms suspected of trading with the enemy. When he returned to Australia in 1916 he was seconded to the Treasury to work on the issue of war gratuity bonds.

In 1921 he was in charge of the commerce branch of the Department of Trade and Customs, responsible for the control of fruit pools and Commonwealth assistance schemes for primary producers. When, in 1925, these functions were combined with the immigration office of the Prime Minister's Department to create the Department of Markets and Migration, Mulvany was appointed secretary. In January 1927 he was appointed to the Commonwealth Board of Trade. For his 'valuable work' as a recognized specialist on the fruit industry and particularly for his effectiveness in extending overseas markets for Australian produce he was appointed I.S.O. in 1927. W. M. Hughes is reputed to have said of him: 'Mulvany is never in the way, and never out of the way'. In 1928 he became a member of the Development and Migration Commission, and when it was abolished in 1930 he returned as secretary and permanent head to the Department of Markets (renamed Department of Commerce in 1932). During this period he was also the Commonwealth representative on the Australian Overseas Trade Publicity Committee and the Australian National Travel Association. In 1934 he took leave and retired officially in 1935.

In 1935-51 Mulvany acted as economic adviser to the Commonwealth Dried Fruits Control Board, and was a member in 1940-46. He was also active as a vice-president and president of the Victorian regional group of the Institute of Public Administration. He had a lifelong interest in horse-racing and was a member of the Williamstown, Moonee Valley and Victoria racing clubs. Predeceased by his wife, Mulvany died suddenly on 7 June 1951 at his St Kilda home and, following a requiem Mass at St Columba's, Elwood, was buried in Melbourne general cemetery. Of his nine children, five sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Argus (Melbourne), 6 Apr 1912
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 June 1927
  • Herald (Melbourne), 6 Dec 1934, 7 June 1951
  • Smith's Weekly (Sydney), 28 Mar 1925, 6 Jan 1940
  • Age (Melbourne), 8 June 1951
  • private information.

Citation details

Ian Carnell, 'Mulvany, Edward Joseph (1871–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 21 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


17 February, 1871
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


7 June, 1951 (aged 80)
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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