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Alfred Richard Outtrim (1845–1925)

by R. C. Duplain

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Alfred Richard Outtrim (1845-1925), politician, was born on 30 March 1845 in London, ninth of twelve children of James Outtrim, customs house agent, and his wife Elizabeth Rosa, née Stephenson. With his mother, four brothers and two sisters, he arrived in Melbourne in December 1851 to join his father who had set out earlier. Soon after their arrival his father and youngest brother died of 'colonial fever'. In reduced circumstances the family lived in a tent at Collingwood while the brothers worked at anything to provide. Alfred's mother appealed for help to a married son in England, but he too died before he could rejoin the family.

Undaunted the Outtrims set out in 1854 for the gold rush at Maryborough, where they again lived for a time in a tent on Market Square. Alfred was educated by his cultured mother and in a denominational school, eventually becoming a pupil-teacher. In the 1860s he rose from being a butcher's boy to driver and local agent for Cobb & Co. Later he became a wine and spirit merchant and grocer and with a brother purchased a carrying business. On 7 March 1871 he married Jane Lavinia Tutcher; they had seven children. By 1885 he was an auctioneer, general commission agent, district auditor, legal manager and director of local gold-mining companies.

Having gained political experience as a councillor for six years (mayor 1884-86), Outtrim entered the Legislative Assembly in 1885 as member for Maryborough and Talbot. During his long political career he held portfolios of mines and forests, defence and, under the McLean government, ministries of mines, water supply and railways. He sat on seven select committees and five royal commissions, chairing seven. Before Federation he was a Liberal in the Munro, Shiels and McLean governments. Keen to represent any movement which advanced rural towns and small entrepreneurial interests, he was identified by (Sir) Alexander Peacock as a 'radical politician' for his introduction of the 1896 and 1898 referendum bills against the Upper House. But the main interests of his political life were fairness, efficiency and responsible government. A tireless worker in the legislature, he strengthened debate on a wide variety of issues. He is best remembered for his keen interest in mining and particularly the development of the black coal industry in Gippsland. Recognizing that government action was required to try to end Victoria's dependence on imported coal, Outtrim authorized investigations which established that it had reserves of 30 million tonnes. He also helped Victoria to acquire patent rights for refractory ores. The government named the township of Outtrim after him.

As minister of railways Outtrim introduced a bill to connect Woomelang with Mildura, an increase of 130 miles (209 km) of track. He was a strong advocate of decentralization. He fought the image of a ministerial 'rubber stamp' by challenging costs and demanding explanations from public servants and railway commissioners.

In October 1902 Outtrim was defeated by F. J. Field, but in 1904 re-entered parliament as the endorsed Labor member for Maryborough. After the conscription split he became a Nationalist and in 1920 was finally defeated by Labor candidate George Frost. Outtrim was fondly remembered as 'father of the House', genial in character with broad political views. He was proud that he had served six terms as secretary of the Maryborough Highland Society. He enjoyed the gramophone, walking and raising coursing dogs, including the first female winner of the Waterloo Cup and collar, Lady Maryborough.

Outtrim died on 21 December 1925 at Carisbrook and was buried with Anglican rites in Maryborough cemetery. His wife and four surviving children donated an impressive set of stained-glass windows to Christ Church, where he had been a regular attender, to commemorate him.

Frank Leon (1847-1917), Alfred's brother, was born on 22 August 1847 in London. After passing the Civil Service examination in 1863 he joined the Victorian Postmaster-General's Department and worked his way through the ranks to inspector. In 1895 he became deputy commissioner of taxes in the Treasury, but returned to serve as deputy postmaster-general for Victoria in 1897-1907. Commissioned in the Victorian Garrison Artillery in 1876 he served as major in command of the North Melbourne Battery in 1889-97, retiring with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. In 1904 he was appointed I.S.O. Outtrim had married a widow Mary Emmeline Mackay (d.1898), née Smith, on 5 November 1866 and Frances Caroline Litchfield on 4 October 1898. He died on 2 April 1917.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • B. Osborn and T. du Bourg, Maryborough (Maryborough, Vic, 1985)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 4 Apr 1917, 22 Dec 1925
  • Age (Melbourne), 22 Dec 1925
  • Maryborough and Dunolly Advertiser, 22 Dec 1925
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

R. C. Duplain, 'Outtrim, Alfred Richard (1845–1925)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Alfred Outtrim, n.d.

Alfred Outtrim, n.d.

State Library of Victoria, 49393505

Life Summary [details]


30 March, 1845
London, Middlesex, England


21 December, 1925 (aged 80)
Carisbrook, Victoria, Australia

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