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Edward Alfred Anstey (1858–1952)

by Dean Jaensch

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Edward Alfred Anstey (1858-1952), builder and politician, was born on 6 July 1858 at Port Elliot, South Australia, third son of Charles John Anstey, carpenter, and his wife Eliza, née Cererher. Educated at Port Elliot Public School he was apprenticed as a joiner to Samuel Trigg. He completed his indentures in the building trade and moved to Adelaide in 1882. On 9 February 1884 he married Mary Ann Glenie; they had two daughters. After five years as a journeyman carpenter he began on his own in 1888 and entered partnership with M. H. Gerard in 1894; they specialized in shop construction and fitting.

Anstey was on the Kensington and Norwood council in 1892-93 and, after moving, was elected to Burnside District Council in 1905. In the 1880s he had been an 'earnest worker for the bettering of the condition of the masses' and prominent in the East Torrens labour committees; he was a foundation member of the United Labor Party of South Australia in 1891. Anstey became president of the State branch in 1914-15 and a member of the Federal executive of the Australian Labor Party. In 1908 he won the State seat of Adelaide in a by-election and held it until 1915 when, after electoral redistribution, he secured North Adelaide. He resigned from the A. L. P. in 1916 over conscription, became a foundation member of the National (Labor) Party, and he held North Adelaide as a Nationalist in 1918.

Anstey had been whip in 1915-16 in Crawford Vaughan's ministry. In the Nationalist-Liberal coalition ministry of A. H. Peake, he held the agriculture, repatriation and crown lands and immigration portfolios in 1918-20 and chaired the State War Council. In March 1920 Peake's demand for unconditional support from the Nationalists led Anstey to resign from the ministry. While chairman of the Nationalist parliamentary party he helped the Progressive Country Party and representing it in 1921 narrowly lost North Adelaide. An ardent land reformer, he had been a fluent speaker on taxation and political economy.

In 1920 Anstey had been appointed to the council of the South Australian School of Mines and Industries. He became organizer at Minda Home for retarded children; a resourceful fund-raiser, he was secretary in 1927-37 and from 1946 a vice-president. He was honorary treasurer of the Kindergarten Union of South Australia in 1925-27 and was closely involved with literary and dramatic societies.

Anstey was the epitome of early South Australian Labor leaders: a strict teetotaller, leading Freemason and committed Protestant. After retirement he was a keen bowler, but later suffered from partial blindness. He spent his last four years at Geelong, Victoria, where he died on 2 July 1952. Buried there in the Western cemetery, he was survived by his daughter Amy; his estate was sworn for probate at £879. His portrait is in the South Australian Archives.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 2 (Adel, 1909)
  • T. H. Smeaton, The People in Politics (Adel, 1914)
  • H. G. Viney, A Century of Commerce in South Australia (Adel, 1936)
  • Adelaide News and Advertiser, 5 July 1952.

Citation details

Dean Jaensch, 'Anstey, Edward Alfred (1858–1952)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012