Alexander Forrest (1849-1901) was an explorer, politician and investor.
He served as second-in-command of his brother John’s first transcontinental expedition, a six month trek along the edge of the Great Australian Bright in 1870. In 1871 he had led a six man expedition looking for pastoral country on the Hampton Plains, forming a favourable impression that did not survive a second examination in 1876. In 1874 he was 2IC of John’s second transcontinental expedition.
In 1879, with a seven man party, he made a six month exploration of the Kimberley district. He named the Margaret and Ord rivers, the King Leopold ranges, and discovered a vast tract of well watered pastoral country on the Fitzroy and Ord rivers. Time lost in fruitless attempts to penetrate the Leopolds resulted in a desperate dash to the security of the Overland Telegraph Line. Forrest discovered good grass and water, promising prospects for gold and tropical agriculture, and aboriginals who showed no hostility. The Kimberley became a magnet for squatters and investors.
In 1887 Forrest was elected to the Legislative Council as the first member for Kimberley. When Western Australia achieved responsible government in 1890 he represented West Kimberley in the Legislative Assembly, easily retaining the seat until his death. He never held cabinet office, but as government whip he wielded such influence during Sir John Forrest’s premiership that he was popularly known as ‘the sixth minister’. He was mayor of Perth for six years (1892-95; 1897-1900).
Australian Dictionary of Biography online version, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/forrest-alexander-6208.
© Kim Epton 2018
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