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Besides his medical and political interests, the unconventional Ellis was also an inventor and a good photographer, and he supported equal pay for women.

Image title:
Henry Ellis

Battye Library, State Library
of Western Australia

Image ID:
413B vol. 40

Elliott and Fry

Henry Ellis (1861–1939)

Doctor and federalist

Ellis trained as a doctor in Ireland and came to Sydney when he was 24. He was a surgeon at Sydney Hospital and did experiments on the growth of germs. In 1894 he went to Perth and became the government's doctor on the new goldfields at Coolgardie. Many of the diggers were dying from disease. Ellis drew up rules to make the goldfields healthier places.

The goldminers were unhappy with the government of John Forrest in Perth. Most of them had come from the east and they wanted Western Australia to join the federation. Forrest would not put the constitution to the vote of the people, so the diggers formed an organisation to campaign both for separation of the goldfields from Western Australia and for federation of those goldfields with the other colonies. Ellis was a leader in this organisation. He drew up the document which set out its demands and spoke and wrote in favour of it. Eventually Forrest held a referendum and Western Australia voted 'Yes' for Federation. (On the goldfields nearly everyone voted that way.)

Ellis stood for election to the Senate in 1901 but he was defeated. He entered state politics instead.