Attorney General 18/12/1877 - 20/12/1878, 20/01 - 18/05/1887
Member of the Legislative Council, 18/12/1877 - 28/10/1880
Minister of Justice, 14/10/1881 - 4/01/1883
Member of the Legislative Assembly for Newtown, 22/11/1880 - 14/02/1888
Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, 14/2/1888 - 18/12/1894.
John William Foster was born on 3 January 1831 in Ireland (1). He was educated at Cheltenham College in England, and Trinity College in Ireland (2). Without taking his degree he left England in 1852 for the Victorian goldfields (3). In 1854 he tried his hand at farming at Wollombi, New South Wales (4). In February 1858 Foster began studying law in Sydney and was admitted to the Bar in May that same year (5).
During the periods 1859-1862 and 1864-1870 he was crown prosecutor for the northern districts, and in 1870 for Sydney (6). Foster was a member of the Legislative Council from 1877 until he resigned in October 1880, when he became the representative for Newtown in the Legislative Assembly. A position he held until 1888 (7). He was also the Attorney-General from December 1877 to December 1878 (8).
In October 1881 he became the Minister for Justice, but lost the position in 1883, only to regain it again in 1885 (9). In 1886 he became a Queen's Counsel, and six times acted as a Supreme Court judge on circuit (10). Foster was again appointed Attorney-General in January 1887 but resigned in May. His resignation four months after being again appointed came amid speculation that he had resigned because he had not been appointed to the judgeship he was promised (11).
In February 1888 he was appointed to the Supreme Court bench (12). In 1891 ill health forced him to take leave, and he retired in 1894 (13). William John Foster died on 16 August 1909 (13).
Foster was a devout Evangelical and was actively involved with the Church of England until 1895. He was an active member in the Lord's Day Observance Society and the Loyal Orange Institution. He was also a member of the Aborigines Protection Board (14).
(1) Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 4, 1851-1890, p.206
(6) www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au (16 January 2006)
(9) loc. cit., p.207