Governors of New South Wales

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Date: 26 Jan 1788
Location: New South Wales, Australiamap
Surnames/tags: New_South_Wales governors
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Badge of the Governor of New South Wales

The Governor of New South Wales is the vice-regal representative of the Australian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in the state of New South Wales; and performs constitutional and ceremonial functions. The office is established by the New South Wales Constitution Act, 1902.[1]

When the eleven ships of the First Fleet anchored in Sydney Cove on 26th January 1788, the king's proclamation regarding the founding of the penal colony of New South Wales was read and Captain Arthur Phillip RN commissioned as the colony's first vice-regal governor. Of course, then New South Wales encompassed the land from the northern tip of Cape York, Queensland to the southern extremity of Tasmania. And it was just weeks before the colony's boundaries were stretched to include places such as Norfolk Island. As time marched on, Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania), Port Phillip Bay (Victoria), Moreton Bay (Queensland) and Norfolk Island became independent of New South Wales.[1]

List of Governors of New South Wales

No. Photo Name Birth-place Spouse Years as Governor No. years Notes
1Captain Arthur Phillip RNAllhallows, London, England-1788-17924yrs 11mthsencouraged exploration, emancipation and self-sufficiency
2Captain John Hunter RNLeith, Midlothian, Scotland-1795-18005yrsencouraged exploration, emancipation and Christianity
3Captain Philip Gidley King RNLaunceston, Cornwall, EnglandAnna Josepha Coombe1800-18065yrs 11 mthsencouraged exploration, emancipation and agriculture
4Image:Bligh-45.jpgCaptain William Bligh RNSt Tudy, Cornwall, Englanddaughter, Mary Putland1806-18081yr 5 mthswas subject to a military coup led by ex-NSW Corps officers
5MAJ GEN Lachlan Macquarie CBIsland of Ulva, Inner Hebrides, ScotlandElizabeth Henrietta Campbell1810-182111yrs 11 mthsencouraged exploration and emancipation, built infrastructure and sited towns
6MAJ GEN Sir Thomas Brisbane GCH GCB, BtNoddsdale, Ayrshire, ScotlandAnna Maria Hay Makdougall1821-18255yrsworked to improve the land grants system and to reform the currency, agriculture
7LT GEN Sir Ralph Darling GCHIrelandElizabeth Dumaresq1825-18315yrs 10 mthseducation, female convicts, promote Christian teaching, and protect indigenous population
8MAJ GEN Sir Richard Bourke KCBDublin, County Dublin, IrelandElizabeth Jane Bourke1831-18376yrstrial by jury and civil juries in criminal cases; economic growth; religion and education
9Major Sir George GippsRingwould, Kent, EnglandElizabeth Ramsay1838-18468yrs 5mthsexploration; equality for all; partial representative government
10LT COL Sir Charles Fitzroy KCH KCBEnglandMary Lennox1846-18558yrs 5mthsconstitution providing for an elected lower house in a bicameral legislature; Sydney Uni.
11Sir William Denison KCBLondon, EnglandCaroline Hornby1855-18616yrseducation; orphanages; Christianity
12The Rt Hon. Sir John Young GCMG KBE, BtBombay, Mahārāshtra, IndiaAdelaide Tuite-Dalton1861-18676yrs 7mthscharities; Christianity
13The Rt Hon. Sir Somerset Lowry-Corry GCMG PC, Earl BelmoreLondon, EnglandAnne Gladstone1868-18724yrs 1mth-
14The Rt Hon. Sir Hercules Robinson GCMGRosmead, Westmeath, IrelandNea Annesley1872-18796yrs 9mthsresponsible government
15The Rt Hon. Sir Augustus Loftus GCB, Lord LoftusBristol, Gloucestershire, EnglandEmma Greville1879-18856yrs 3mthsSudan War
16The Rt Hon. Sir Charles Wyn-Carington GCMG PC, Lord CarringtonWhitehall, London, EnglandCecilia Harbord1885-18904yrs 11mths-
17The Rt Hon. Sir Victor Child-Villiers GCB GCMG PC, Earl of JerseyBerkeley Square, London, EnglandMargaret Leigh1891-18932yrs 2mths-
18The Rt Hon. Sir Robert Duff GCMGFetteresso, Kincardineshire, ScotlandLouisa Scott1893-1895
1yrs 10mths-
19The Rt Hon. Sir Henry Brand GCMG, Viscount Hampden of GlyndeDevonport, Devonshire, EnglandSusan Cavendish1895-18993yrs 4mths-
20The Rt Hon. Sir William Lygon KCMG PC, Earl BeauchampLondon, EnglandLettuce Grosvenor1899-19011yr 11mthsBoer War; federation
21Admiral Sir Harry Rawson GCB GCMG RNWalton-on-Hill, Lancashire, EnglandFlorence Shaw1902-19097yrsthe first naval officer since William Bligh to hold the post
22The Rt Hon. Sir Frederick Thesiger GCSI GCMG GCIE GBE, Lord ChelmsfordLondon, EnglandFrances Guest1909-19133yrs 8mthshad been governor of Queensland from 1905
23The Hon. Sir Gerald Strickland GCMG, Count della Catena, Lord StricklandValletta, MaltaEdeline Sackville1913-19174yrs 7mthssupported efforts during The Great War
24Sir Walter Davidson KCMGValletta, MaltaDame Davidson, nee Margaret Feilding1918-1923
5yrs 7mthsdied in office
25Admiral Sir Dudley de Chair KCB KCMG MVOLennoxville, Quebec, CanadaEnid Struben1924-19306yrs 2mths-
26Air Vice Marshal Sir Philip Game GCB GCVO GBE KCMG DSOStreatham, Surrey, EnglandGwendolen Hughes-Gibb1930-19354yrs 8mthsdismissed the NSW government in May 1932
27Brigadier Sir Alexander Hore-Ruthven VC GCMG CB DSO, Earl of GowrieWindsor, Berkshire, EnglandZara Pollok1935-193612mthswas appointed Governor General of Australia
28Admiral Sir David Anderson KCB KCMG MVONewton by Chester, Cheshire, EnglandDame Anderson, nee Edith Teschemaker1936-1936
2mthsdied in office
29The Rt Hon. Sir John de Vere Loder KCMG, Lord WakehurstChelsea, London, EnglandMargaret Tennant1937-19468yrs 9mthsthe last non-Australian-born governor of NSW; supported the war effort
30LT GEN Sir John Northcott KCMG KCVO CBCreswick, VictoriaMary Paton1946-195710yrs 11mthsfirst Australian-born (Victoria) governor of New South Wales
31LT GEN Sir Eric Woodward KCMG KCVO CB CBE DSOHay, New South WalesAmy Weller1957-19658yrsfirst NSW governor to have been born in New South Wales
32Sir Arthur Roden Cutler VC KCMG KCVO CBEManly, New South WalesHelen Morris1966-198114yrs 365 daysNSW's longest-serving governor
33Air Marshal Sir James Rowland AC KBE DFC AFCArmidale, New South WalesFaye Campbell1981-19898yrsa 'man of the people': opened Government House on a more frequent basis and invited a broader range of society to official functions
34Rear Admiral Sir David Martin KCMG AO RANSydney, New South WalesSuzanne Millear1989-1990
1yr 7mths-
35Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair AC RANManly, New South WalesShirley McLellan1990-19965yrs 7mthsliving as of 2019
36The Hon. Gordon Samuels AC CVO QCLondon, EnglandJacqueline Kott1996-20015yrs-
37Professor The Hon. Dame Marie Bashir AD CVONarrandera, New South WalesSir Nicholas Shehadie2001-201413yrs 7mthsliving as of 2019
38General The Hon. David Hurley AC DSCWollongong, New South WalesLinda McMartin2014-20194yrs 7mthsliving as of 2019
39The Hon. Margaret Beazley AO QCSydney, New South WalesDennis Wilson2019-incumbent-

The Role of the Governor

As Australia's, and therefore New South Wales', monarch lives predominantly outside New South Wales' borders, the governor's primary task is to perform the sovereign's constitutional duties on his or her behalf, acting within the principles of parliamentary democracy and responsible government as a guarantor of continuous and stable governance and as a nonpartisan safeguard against the abuse of power. For the most part, however, the powers of the Crown are exercised on a day-to-day basis by elected and appointed individuals, leaving the governor to perform the various ceremonial duties the sovereign otherwise carries out when in the country; at such a moment, the governor removes him or herself from public, though the presence of the monarch does not affect the governor's ability to perform governmental roles.[1]

The first ten governors of New South Wales, covering the colony's first 67 years, were primarily overseeing the running of a penal settlement, or settlements. The early colonial governors held a virtual autocratic power due to the distance from and poor communications with Great Britain, until 1824 when the New South Wales Legislative Council, Australia's first legislative body, was appointed to advise the governor.

Between 1850 and 1861, the governor of New South Wales was titled governor-general, in an early attempt at federalism. During that time all communication between the Australian colonies and the British Government was meant to go through the governor-general, and the other colonies had lieutenant-governors. As South Australia (1836), Tasmania (1855), and Victoria (1855) obtained responsible government, their lieutenant-governors were replaced by governors. Queensland (1859) went directly to governor and independence. It is from this time that New South Wales became as is known today.

The six British colonies in Australia joined together to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. New South Wales and the other colonies became states in the federal system under the Constitution of Australia. The New South Wales Constitution Act 1902 confirmed the modern system of government of New South Wales as a state, including defining the role of the governor as the monarch's representative, who acts by and with the advice of the Executive Council.[1]

Government House


On his arrival in Sydney in 1788, Arthur Phillip resided in a temporary wood and canvas house before the construction of a more substantial house on a site now bounded by Bridge Street and Phillip Street, Sydney. This first Government House was extended and repaired by the following eight governors, but was generally in poor condition and was vacated in 1845.[1]

Government House Sydney c1809

From 1845, Government House has been the house designed by Edward Blore and Mortimer Lewis and built in Macquarie Street overlooking Farm Cove and the Sydney Harbour.[1]

Government House Sydney

With the federation of the Australian colonies in 1901, Government House was leased to the new Commonwealth Government to serve as the secondary residence of the new Governor-General of Australia. The NSW Government leased the residence of Cranbrook, Bellevue Hill as the residence of the governor. This arrangement lasted until 1913 when the governor-general moved to the new Sydney residence of Admiralty House. The governor from 1913 to 1917, Sir Gerald Strickland, continued to live in Cranbrook and on his departure his successor returned to Government House.[1]

In an attempt to 'force' republicanism on the nation, on 16th January 1996, the premier, Bob Carr, announced that the (then) next governor, Gordon Samuels, would not live or work at Government House. Infact, Carr turned the office of governor into a part-time affair. In October 2011, the new premier, Barry O'Farrell, announced that the governor, Dame Marie Bashir, would move back into Government House.[1]


In 1790, Arthur Phillip had a secondary residence built in the township of Parramatta. In 1799, John Hunter, established a more permanent building erected on the same site - the oldest surviving public building in Australia - and now known as Old Government House, a National Trust of New South Wales managed property.[2] This residence remained occupied until the completion of the primary Government House in 1845.[1]

Old Government House Parramatta

Summer residence

From 1868, The Earl Belmore and his successor, Sir Hercules Robinson, used Throsby Park at Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands as his summer residence. In 1879 it was decided that the colony should purchase a house at Sutton Forest for use as a permanent summer residence, and in 1881 the NSW Government purchased for £6000 a property known as Prospect that had been built by Robert Pemberton Richardson (of the firm Richardson & Wrench). This was renamed Hillview, and became the primary summer governor's residence from 1885 to 1957; when, seen as unnecessary and expensive, Hillview was put up for sale.[1]

Hillview, Sutton Forest


The governor is but one person in the vice-regal household; managed by the Office of the Governor. He or she is helped in the execution of constitutional and ceremonial duties by the Official Secretary and Chief of Staff, currently Colonel Michael Miller RFD. Other support staff include aides-de-camp, press officers, financial managers, speech writers, event managers, protocol officers, chefs and other kitchen employees, waiters, various cleaning staff, as well as tour guides. In this official capacity, the entire household is usually referred to as Government House.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Wikipedia: Governor of New South Wales; accessed 14 Oct 2019
  2. National Trust: Old Government House; accessed 14 Oct 2019

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