Fellows of Senate

Sir Joseph Hector McNeil Carruthers MLC

An early graduate of the University of Sydney (BA 1876 and MA 1878), Sir Joseph Hector McNeil Carruthers was a Fellow of Senate from 1921 to 1923.


(1856 - 1932)
MA Sydney
Fellow of Senate 1921 - 1923

His early days

Joseph Hector McNeil Carruthers was born on 21 December 1856 at Kiama, New South Wales, sixth son of nine children born to Scottish immigrant, John Carruthers (Cruthers), and his English wife Charlotte, née Prince.

His father was unable to pay for his son's secondary education, and Joseph was sent to the William Street and Fort Street High School, an academically selective public school. He then became a boarder at George Metcalfe's Goulburn High School for a short term.

His student days at the University of Sydney

Carruthers was a Foundation member of the University Debating and Literary Society in 1874, and played cricket and football for the University.

He graduated BA at the University of Sydney in 1876 and MA in 1878.

Carruthers as a University student

Carruthers as a University student, photo, The Sydney Mail, 18 September 1907, Google News Archive.

His career

Carruthers was articled to a solicitor and admitted to practice as a solicitor in 1879. He practised his profession for the next few years, then was elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly in the seats of Canterbury (1887-1894) and St. George (1894-1908).

From 1889 to 1891 he was Minister for Public Instruction in the Parkes Government. He wanted a centralized system, to include the independent schools and technical education, with the university as the apex. He introduced a bill to endow a women's college within the university. Abolishing the Board of Technical Education, he brought technical colleges under the Department of Public Instruction. In 1890 he announced that a teachers' college would be set up within the grounds of the university.

His next portfolio was that of Minister for Lands, which he undertook in 1894, and he continued as Ministerial head until 1899.

He was an ardent Federalist, and played an important part in the historic convention which framed the Constitution of the Commonwealth in 1897-98.


The Hon Joseph Carruthers MLA in 1897, a NSW candidate for the Federal Convention, photo from the 'Australian Town and Country Journal', 20 February 1897.


The Hon Joseph Carruthers MLA in 1898, photo by unknown photographer, nla.pic-an21399820-6, courtesy National Library of Australia.

Colonial Treasurer of NSW in 1899, he was Leader of the Opposition from 1902 to 1904, and Premier of NSW as well as Colonial Treasurer from 1904 to 1907. Ill-health forced his to retire in 1907.


Premier Carruthers in 1907, photo, The Sydney Mail, 18 September 1907, Google News Archive.

In October 1908 he was elected to the Legislative Council, and shortly afterwards was made a KCMG. He was a member of the Legislative Council until 1932.

Sir Joseph Carruthers in 1921

Sir Joseph Carruthers in 1921, photo from the 'Western Mail', 1 September 1921, NLA Newspapers

Sir Joseph Carruthers in 1931

Sir Joseph Carruthers in 1931, photo from 'The Sydney Morning Herald', 12 October 1931, NLA Newspapers.

He died on 10 December 1932.

From the Australian Dictionary of Biography

His membership of Senate

Carruthers was a Fellow of Senate elected by the Legislative Council from 1921 to 1923.