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To keep his energy levels high, Isaacs ran, swam and walked a lot.

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Sir Isaac Isaacs

National Library of Australia

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Isaac Isaacs (1855–1948)

First Australian-born governor-general

Isaacs was born in Melbourne. Although Jewish, he did not follow the Jewish observances. From humble beginnings he became the leading lawyer in Melbourne. He experienced some anti-Jewish prejudice and always resisted it.

He was a leading politician in Victoria in the 1890s and was elected to the Federal Convention of 1897–98. Although Isaacs was the best lawyer there, he reduced his influence because he spoke too often and seemed like a know-all.

He was a member of the Commonwealth Parliament from 1901 to 1906, when he was appointed to the High Court. In his interpretations of the constitution, he gave large powers to the Commonwealth at the expense of the states.

In 1930 the Scullin Labor government asked the king to appoint him as governor-general. The king wanted a British person as before and tried to get Scullin to change his mind. Scullin stood firm and the king as a constitutional monarch had to agree. Isaacs did the job well, but non-Labor governments continued to recommend British men to the position of governor-general until 1965.