HAWKER, George Charles (1818-1895)


HAWKER, George Charles (1818-1895)
pioneer and politician
was the second son of Admiral Edward Hawker, and was born at London on 21 September 1818. He was educated partly on the continent, and entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1836. He qualified for his B.A. degree in 1840, and towards the end of that year went to South Australia. He had some capital to start with, and after trying two sites which were found to have insufficient water, established a sheep station some distance to the north of Adelaide, afterwards known as Bungaree. He had two brothers with him at first and all three soon adapted themselves to pioneer conditions; some of the early station buildings in fact were put up with their own hands. In 1841 they were members of a party of 10 that went out to reclaim a large number of sheep that had fallen into the hands of the aborigines. The aborigines heavily outnumbered them and they were fortunate in escaping with the loss of one horse with one member of their party wounded. Hawker eventually bought out his brothers and extended his land until he had some 80,000 acres. Much attention was paid to the breeding of his sheep, and his wool gained a high reputation.
In January 1858 Hawker entered the South Australian house of assembly as member for the district of Victoria, and in April 1860, though a comparatively young man and opposed by B. T. Finniss (q.v.) and F. S. Dutton (q.v.), was elected speaker. He was successful in this position carrying out its duties with tact and dignity, and showing a good knowledge of parliamentary practice. He retired from parliament in 1865, went to England with his family, and did not return until 1874. He again entered parliament and, except for a few months, was a member until his death. He was twice asked to form a ministry and declined on each occasion, but several times held office. He was treasurer in the third Blyth (q.v.) ministry for a few days in 1875, and chief secretary in the second Boucaut (q.v.) ministry from March to June 1876. He was commissioner of public works in the third Boucaut ministry from October 1877 to September 1878, and held the same position in the Morgan (q.v.) ministry until June 1881. In 1889 he visited India to inquire into the irrigation question, and on his return wrote a series of articles on this subject which appeared in the South Australian Register. He died on 21 May 1895; if he had lived a few days longer he would have been created K.C.M.G. He married in December 1845 Bessie, daughter of Henry Seymour, who survived him with six sons and six daughters.
Hawker held a leading position as a citizen of South Australia. Wealthy, and a good employer, he was much interested in the every day life of the colony, a follower of cricket, racing, and coursing, a supporter of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society, and the Zoological Society. He was much respected in parliament through his long career of 26 years. In his earlier days a first rate speaker who sometimes rose to eloquence, Hawker as an old man contented himself with short speeches, which were, however, much to the point. He showed distinct administrative ability during his term as commissioner of public works.
Of Hawker's sons, Edward William Hawker, born in 1850, was for several years during his father's lifetime a member of the South Australian house of assembly. A man of wide education he took much interest in educational and public institutions. A grandson, Charles Allan Seymour Hawker, born in 1894, was a South Australian member of the Commonwealth house of representatives from 1929 to 1938, was minister for markets and repatriation from January to April 1932 and minister for commerce until September 1932. He died on 24 October 1938.
The South Australian Register and The Advertiser, Adelaide, 22 May 1895; Admissions to Trinity College, Cambridge, 1801-50; Commonwealth Parliamentary Handbook, 1938; Who's Who in Australia, 1941, Obituary.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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