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Barton, as the leader of the 1897–98 Federal Convention

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Sir Edmund Barton

National Library of Australia

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Edmund Barton(1849–1920)

Australia's first prime minister; drafter of the constitution

Barton was born and brought up in Sydney. Since he was a good student, he went on to secondary school and to university. He became a lawyer, but he did not make much money. He was rather lazy and enjoyed eating and drinking. When he was 30, he became a member of parliament.

Like many other young people born in Australia, he was keen on the plan to form an Australian nation. He became the leader of the Federation movement in New South Wales, travelling the colony to give speeches and organise supporters. On this topic he was not lazy.

Barton was the leader at the 1897–98 Federal Convention. He was in charge of getting the words in the constitution right and after each day's debate he worked through the night while the other delegates slept.

He became so admired and trusted that the leading politicians in the other colonies wanted him to be the first prime minister. He was prime minister from 1901 to 1903, and then he retired and became a judge on the new High Court.