Print Page print
Tall, dignified Symon was a magnificent speaker with a huge personal library.

Image title:
Josiah Symon

National Library of Australia

Image ID:

Josiah Symon (1846–1934)

Lawyer and federalist

Symon came from Scotland to South Australia as a young man, quickly becoming the best lawyer in Adelaide. He was a strong supporter of Federation and became president of South Australia's Federation League.

He was elected to the 1897–98 Federal Convention and spoke very strongly there. He defended the rights of the small states in the Senate and stressed the need for South Australia to have access to water flowing down the Murray River. Symon also emphasised that Australian law courts should have the right to settle all matters themselves, without appeals to British courts.

The constitution allowed some appeals to Britain. However, when the constitution was sent there for approval, the British government tried to change it so that all cases could be appealed. Symon was a leader of the campaign back in Australia to stop this change. He himself wanted to be a judge of the new High Court, and he did not want English judges interfering with what that court did.

Symon was elected to the Senate in 1901. He was a minister in George Reid's short-lived 1904–05 government, but did not become a High Court judge.