Ever since 1788 when Jews arrived on the first fleet, they integrated and flourished within Australian society. To this day there remains an interesting connection between those Jews who were actively involved within their local community and those who went on to become legislators. Nearly all Jewish legislators, in spite of time, location and the political divide played a significant role within their respective communities and often a foundational role within the Jewish community. They became an indispensable part of Jewish and Australian history and their legacies continue to have an everlasting impact.
Despite numbering less than 1% of the population, Jews have disproportionally contributed to political life at all levels of government for 150 years. The first Jewish legislator was Lionel Samson, a Jewish businessman who was elected to the Parliament of Western Australian in 1849. Lionel Samson & Son, the business which Mr Samson founded, remains Australia's second oldest continuous family run business.
Since 1849 there have been over 85 legislators with Jewish heritage across every state parliament and since federation 23 have sat in the Commonwealth Parliament with four being elected to the first Parliament. Some Jewish legislators served in both State and Commonwealth Parliaments, just not concurrently. Notable examples have included:
Special thanks to William Nemesh & Gary Eckstein.
Sir Saul Samuel, New South Wales MLA, 1854-1880.
From the collections of the State Library of NSW