Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of History and Politics


The Downer family represents three generations spanning three centuries of key growth and development periods in Australian history. These have included Federation and Australia’s national formation, post-World War Two immigration expansion of the nation and more recently for Alexander Downer the development of the Australian- American international relationship. In examining these generations of the Downer family this study has identified an influential leadership credo around nation building. Through this family political experience a credo has formed embracing the values, mores and themes which have influenced Alexander Downer’s approach to policy. Each generation has promoted the idea of a bigger Australia expounding policies supporting a larger immigration policy. International relations have also been revealed as a source of promoting the Australia nation.

Although from a conservative family with continuous British affiliations, the Downer family has often been associated with progressive legislative policies. Alexander Downer has described his political philosophy arising from this background as progressive conservatism. One of the central aims of this study is to assess the veracity of this self description and its contribution to the family credo. Were the policy positions which he inherited from his family and which influenced him in his career enough to confirm this political philosophy?



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.