THE SPORTING BARRISTER
We have Edward Mitchell to thank for the world famous Kooyong tennis centre. Born to well-off parents, both he and his wife Eliza used their opportunities to play a leading role in Australian national life including the new Federal High Court, Australian sporting institutions, and social welfare.
He was educated at private schools in both Australia and England eventually graduating from Cambridge in 1883. He soon began a successful legal practice in Melbourne appearing mainly before the Supreme Court. In 1886 he married Eliza Morrison daughter of the headmaster of Scotch College.
Mitchell was prominent in Australian sporting institutions becoming President of the Melbourne Cricket Club and Victorian representative on the Australian Board of control for international cricket matches. He also had interests in golf and tennis and played tennis for Victoria against NSW 1886-7. As patron of the Lawn Tennis Association of Victoria he induced them to buy the now famous Kooyong property. Australia’s prowess on the sporting field was a key focus for nationalist feeling. In 1887 the first official ‘Test Match’ took place in Melbourne. There was national rapture when Australia beat England by 45 runs and again in England in 1882 by seven runs. Australians were relieved that their English pedigree had not deteriorated ‘in the languid Australian climate.’
He campaigned heavily for federation in the 1898 referendum. The advent of federation in 1901 saw the creation of the High Court of Australia. Mitchell became a leading constitutional and equity law barrister appearing in most of the important constitutional cases to come before this court as well as the Privy Council. In 1918 he failed in a bid to enter the House of Representatives. In the 1930s he campaigned against Premier Lang’s financial policies and published on financial issues between Commonwealth and states.
Eliza Mitchell played a leading role in the development of Australian volunteer and nursing organizations. She was a foundation member of the Red Cross Council at the start of World War One and assistant commissioner of the Australian Red Cross Society in England. In 1920 she led an appeal for the Queen Victoria Hospital which named its new wing after her. She helped found the Victoria League and the Victorian Country Women’s Association, sought funding for nursing training and promoted the Bush Nursing Association.
Sir Edward died in 1941 and Lady Mitchell died seven years later. Their home was in Fulton Street, East St Kilda. This distinguished Australian couple is buried in the family grave in St Kilda Cemetery.