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Court, Sir Charles Walter (1911–2007)

by Andrea Mayes

from news.com.au

Sir Charles Court, regarded by many West Australians as the State's greatest premier, died peacefully on Saturday night, aged 96.

Sir Charles' health had been in decline since the beginning of the year and he suffered a stroke in April.

He had been in and out of hospital on a regular basis over the past few months, and moved into a residential care facility in Cottesloe earlier in the year.

Sir Charles was Premier from 1974 to 1982 and was renowned for his achievements in opening up the north-west of the state for resource development.

He was first elected to Parliament as the Member for Nedlands in 1953 and became Minister for Industrial Development, the North West and Railways when David Brand's Liberal-Country Party government was elected in 1959.

It was in these portfolios that Court began to make his mark, overseeing the Ord River Scheme, the development of the Kwinana industrial strip and the start of large-scale iron ore mining in the Pilbara.

His careful cultivation of Japanese companies saw large-scale investment in WA's burgeoning iron ore industry, which was to transform the state's economy from a largely agriculturally based one to a booming powerhouse based on mining.

He was instrumental in getting the North West Shelf gas project off the ground and also oversaw the development of the nickel mining and mineral sands industries in WA.

On the cultural and education fronts, Sir Charles saved His Majesty's Theatre from the wrecker's ball, oversaw the inauguration of Murdoch University and instigated the Perth Cultural Centre precinct.

His time as Premier was not free from controversy, however, and his clashes with the union movement were frequent, beginning with his amendment of Section 54B of the Police Act which stopped more then three people meeting in public without permission.

The Noonkanbah dispute brought further conflict with the unions and Aboriginal West Australians when he overrode objections to mining exploration on sacred sites and sent in the drilling rigs regardless.

Sir Charles retired in 1982 and received his knighthood the same year.

He was succeeded as Member for Nedlands by his son Richard, who then went onto to follow in his father's footsteps as WA Premier from 1993 to 2001.

Sir Charles had five sons with his first wife Rita Steffanoni, whom he married in 1936 — Victor, Barry, Ken, Richard and Geoffrey.

Lady Rita died in 1992 and Sir Charles married his former nurse Judith in 1996.

Original publication

  • news.com.au

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Citation details

Andrea Mayes, 'Court, Sir Charles Walter (1911–2007)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/court-sir-charles-walter-30008/text37220, accessed 30 March 2020.

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