Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Henry Latimer Walters (1868–1929)

by Ian Carnell

This article was published:

Henry Latimer Walters (1868-1929), public servant, was born on 24 January 1868 at Newcastle, New South Wales, fourth surviving child of Joseph Walters, engine driver, and his wife Mary, née Evans, both Welsh born. Joining the New South Wales Department of Public Works as a clerk in 1883, Henry transferred to the Government Printing Office; he next worked in the Department of Lands. On 12 June 1895 he married Edith Rebecca Cole at Marrickville with Congregational forms. In 1899 Walters was promoted accountant in the Treasury. After Federation, he joined the Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs as its accountant, and moved to Melbourne. Within this department he developed a close association with the foundation of Canberra.

The 1916-17 Blacket royal commission on the Federal capital administration criticized Walters for his accounts system and for the limited direction he had given to the accounts clerk in the Federal capital. Independent advice received by W. A. Watt, the minister for works and railways, supported Walters, and was used to discredit Blacket's conclusions generally. Walters' reputation was in no way harmed and later in 1917 he was appointed chief clerk in the Commonwealth Department of Works and Railways. In 1926 he succeeded W. D. Bingle as departmental secretary and was also appointed commissioner for war service homes. Mindful of the legacy of Colonel James Walker's controversial term as commissioner, Walters pursued 'efficiency, sympathy and economy'. He visited operations in all the States, revised procedures and staffing, and achieved a substantial reduction in administrative expenses.

A tall, robust man, Walters had 'simple tastes' and was 'kindly in disposition, exceedingly devout, and overflowing with good humor'. Prominently identified with the Baptist Church, he was a gifted lay preacher. He was esteemed in the Commonwealth Public Service and in 1928 was awarded the Imperial Service Order. Walters died of stomach cancer on 17 March 1929 at St Kilda, Melbourne, and was buried in Cheltenham cemetery. He was survived by his wife, son and two daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Gibbney, Canberra 1913-1953 (Canb, 1988)
  • Parliamentary Papers (Commonwealth), 1917, 2, p 1, 1926-28, 2, p 347
  • Age (Melbourne), 19 Mar 1929
  • Argus (Melbourne), 19 Mar 1929
  • Canberra Times, 5 Dec 1964.

Citation details

Ian Carnell, 'Walters, Henry Latimer (1868–1929)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 20 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


24 January, 1868
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia


17 March, 1929 (aged 61)
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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.