John Tonkin

(1902-1995)

John Trezise Tonkin (2 February 1902 – 20 October 1995) was an important figure in West Australian history- an Australian Labor party politician, popularly known as 'Honest John'. He served as a Member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly for a record 44 years from 1933 to 1977, and was the 20th Premier of Western Australia from 1971 to 1974. The Tonkin Highway was named after him.

John Tonkin lived for 50 years at a modest single story house at 174 Preston Point Road and was always a zealous advocate for the interests of East Fremantle, supporting its fight against forced amalgamation in 1955 and between 1947 and 1953 he was President of the East Fremantle Football Club. He was a keen gardener and his rose garden was considered a showplace.

He married first wife Rosalie Cleghorn in 1926 and after she died of cancer in 1969, Tonkin campaigned for many years for radio-wave therapy treatments for cancer sufferers.

Just before he became Premier he married his second wife Joan West (1920- 2014) in the early 1970s. Joan had an impressive career working with: the Australian Red Cross, Girl Guides WA, Scouts Australia and the WA Royal Flying Doctor Service. Her lifelong involvement with the Royal Commonwealth Society began when she became the Honorary Secretary of what was then the Royal Empire Society, which was established in Perth in 1954 to promote the Commonwealth, its culture and values, with a particular focus on youth and education. She became president of the Society in 1982 and held the position for 31 years until she retired in March 2012 at 91 years of age. 

In the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1977, John Tonkin was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia. He is also honoured as a Freeman of the Town of East Fremantle and in 2018 the Town and the Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) developed new interpretive information at John Tonkin Park, along with landscaping and revegetation work.

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