Western Australia was a different place between 1959 and 1967, when the JPs on this page received their commissions. Most people could buy a family home for under $20,000 in most Perth suburbs, and find them far cheaper in country towns. Homes in the Perth suburbs (regardless of whether you lived in the great social divide constituted by being ‘north’ or ‘south of the river’) were often a quarter of an acre in size. The chook yard was also part of life for most, and almost everyone had fruit trees and vegetable gardens. The Swan River banks at night were often lit up by the lamps of families who were prawning. In the post-war period, European immigrants came to the West in numbers, and by the 60s, everyone knew someone who was Italian or Greek or from some other place that was no longer pink on the map (or never was) and spoke English with an accent. All of these things were taken for granted by people of European and particularly Anglo-European descent, despite the reality that many Aboriginal families still lived in bush camps, even in parts of the Perth metropolitan area. Although Commonwealth electoral laws changed in 1962 and legal restrictions on Aboriginal people were gradually being removed, change became more apparent in 1967 when 90% of white Australians recognised their right to vote. In these unequal times, technology was accelerating and so was social and political change. These JPs saw the Ord River project begin, the Pilbara experience a boom, nickel associated with the word Kambalda, bauxite mining begin in the Darling Ranges – and they saw the reintoduction of National Service. The stories they have to tell are much larger than what can be said in this small space. They’re worth hearing.
Ron Bennet JP was born in Subiaco in 1930. He became a JP in 1959, an initiative he took shortly after being elected to Mosman Park Council. His exemplory record of community service includes being President of Mosman Park Rotary and having a deep involvement with Surf Lifesaving WA, of which he is a proud Life Member; he was similarly involved in many service organisations. He has many stories of the years he served on the bench in Perth City and in Fremantle and has lost count of the number of times that police called him during the early hours to sign bail agreements. One story from this time concerns when Ron was walking along St Georges Terrace on his way to lunch and a car screeched to a halt in front of him. Out from the passenger seat jumped a man who Ron recognised as a detective, waving a piece of paper that needed a signature. When asked for an explanation of this dramatic meeting, the detective replied that the document needeed to be signed urgently, so he instructed the driver to ‘make the Terrace run, because there was bound to be a JP there somewhere’. This story says as much about Ron as a person as it does about the willingness to serve that all Justices of the Peace bring to their commitment to society. Well done, Ron, and thank you.
A long-term member of the Mandurah Murray branch of RAJWA, Ron is pictured here at an end-of-year function with the late Joy Jeffes AOM JP in December 2021.
Rabbi Dr Shalom Coleman CBE AM JP was born in Liverpool UK in 1918 and attended the University of Liverpool. Following service with the Royal Air Force during WW2, Rabbi Coleman returned to being a student and graduated as a rabbi from Jew’s College London in 1955. He moved to Australia in 1961 and to Perth in 1965, where he became Chief Rabbi of Perth Hebrew Congregation, a post he held until his retirement in 1987. During a remarkable life of community service as a Rotarian, Freemason, military Chaplain and in committee roles such as for the Family Association of WA, RSL, Perth Dental Hospital Board and in the Save the Children Fund, Rabbi Coleman has achieved several academic qualifications, among which is an Honorary LLD from UWA, and was awarded a CBE by Queen Elizabeth II. At 103 years of age, this long-time RAJWA member is still publicly active, and in all of this, he has seen his past and ongoing work as a Justice of the Peace as a privilege: ‘I have enjoyed the experience’, he said, and intends to continue for as long as he is able. Thank you, Rabbi. It is the people of Western Australia who are privileged.
Kevin Chatfield JP MPS Phch became a Justice of the Peace in 1967. Having graduated from the WA College of Pharmacy in 1956, he opened the first pharmacy in Wongan Hills in 1958, and lived there with his family for thirteen years. He was nominated to become a JP after an approach by two senior JPs and the local police sergeant. In 1969, Kevin was nominated as a member of the Wongan Hills Children’s Court and in 1975 as a member of the Rockingham Children’s Court. He found sitting in court with fellow JPs a humbling and at times a thought-provoking experience. Kevin recalls that his mentor JP said ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ before his first sitting in court, and never forgot that advice to remain aware that life presents challenges for all of us. He feels privileged to have met and assisted many people and made lasting friendships in his commitment to the honour of being commissioned to be a Justice of the Peace. Like other JPs mentioned here, Kevin has a long list of professional and community-based achievements. Thank you, Mr Chatfield for your service.
Robert Duncan Suann JP was born in Cronulla NSW in 1931. In 1955, he married Qualeup WA local Madeline (Bailey) and in 1958 he purchased the C. D. Leach & Co. J. P. Elders, H.V. McKay-Massey Harris General Agency in Kojonup. Keen to contribute to positive changes in his community at a time when Albany Highway premises were regularly subject to flooding, Robert twice stood for local council but was unsuccessful. Robert had a local mentor, Brigadier Arnold Potts, who wryly consoled him with the remark that ‘as a young man, you have to be here 25 years before acceptance’. Before long, however, that acceptance manifested in the recommendation by Crawford Nalder MP for the erstwhile newcomer to become a Justice of the Peace, and his commission in 1967. At 91 in 2022, Mr Suann has spent the years since still working as a JP and always engaged in contibuting to his adopted state as a historian and an activist for safe public spaces. He is currently engaged in writing a Western Australian colonization, two volume history (from 1714-2021) detailing the Swan River Colony, Local Government Kojennup Region, Kojonup. The first volume is provisionally titled, ‘Settlement Wheel Rim and Hub Established 1837’. Now a resident of the City of Canning, he is also committed to promoting the ongoing design of the Shelley Beach Park, with the wish for the beachfront to achieve long-term ecological health and be at an optimal safety level so that he can still swim safely at his favourite swimming area when he turns 100. With this level of energy and focus, the people of Western Australia and the many JPs for whom people such as Robert Suann serve as a model have much to be grateful for in another exemplary servant of our society.
Richard Nulsen JP became a Justice of the Peace in March 1967. His story will be added here soon.