- Lawyer and Politician
A key figure in nineteenth-century Victorian legal and administrative history, William Foster Stawell studied law at Trinity College, Dublin and at Lincoln's Inn, London. After practising for a time in Dublin he is reported to have stated that when he saw 40 hats on the court pegs and there was work for only 20 lawyers, the time was right to come to Australia. This was in 1842.
Stawell briefly joined his cousin, John L. Foster, on a property near Avoca and then settled in Melbourne, where he practised law. He quickly gained the reputation of having sound legal knowledge and a great capacity for work. In 1851, when Victoria ceased to be part of New South Wales, Stawell became a member of the Legislative Council and Attorney General of the state. At the first election following the introduction of responsible government in 1856, he was returned as Member of Parliament for the seat of Melbourne. Stawell became Attorney-General in the first ministry and was instrumental in drafting Victoria's first constitution.