1. Themes
  2. A to Z
  • Click to view this Photograph

    Sir Graham Berry, 1898, courtesy of National Library of Australia.

Berry, Sir Graham (1822 - 1904)

Twickenham, England
Merchant and Politician

Sir Graham Berry, who became a prominent Victorian politician and premier, was the son of a moderately successful Twickenham tradesman. After elementary schooling he was apprenticed, at age 11, to a draper and followed this trade in Chelsea. In 1852, he sold up and, with his wife Harriet, migrated to Victoria. He established himself in South Yarra as a general storekeeper and wine and spirits merchant. By 1856 he had prospered enough to visit England for eight months to claim a legacy. He had also begun his apprenticeship in politics.

In 1854, Berry sat on one of the juries that acquitted the Eureka rebels, and the next year became secretary of the Prahran Reform League. The onset of harder times, in 1857, and their human effects gave his incipient radicalism a fateful turn towards protection. He was soon prominent among Melbourne's radical speakers. He spoke with earnestness and control, but his lack of education and emotional nature showed in a lack of both originality and an interest in theory. He never questioned the fundamentals of politics or society, only the concentration of power and wealth. Class antagonism was rare in his speeches; in the Victoria of his visions, all honest, industrious men would prosper, no class would dominate, and no economic or political theories should stand in his pragmatic way.

In 1860, Berry strengthened his ties with Melbourne radicalism by buying the Collingwood Observer. He also abandoned trade for a political career that lasted nearly 40 years.

Keir Reeves

Bartlett, Geoffrey, 'Berry, Sir Graham (1822 - 1904)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 3, Melbourne University Press, 1974. Details