Class of 1903

Emil Nulsen came to Christian Brothers’ College at the turn of the 20th century and became the first Member of Parliament to have been educated by the Brothers. He was also arguably one of the Christian Brothers’ great and possibly most colourful characters.

Emil was an outstanding all-rounder at the school: Champion Athlete of 1902, highly skilled at rowing, running, football and cricket where, as a fast bowler, according to The West Australian: “he secured many wickets”. On leaving Aquinas, he returned to help his father in mining during the great gold rush.

However, his passage through life was not as smooth as one might imagine before he became a highly regarded and much-loved politician. At the age of 19, his father, who had mining interests in New England, had to lodge a lease in person with the warden in Wiluna within 24 hours, sixty miles away. He sent Emil to get it there before closing time, but tragically, only a few miles into the journey his horse keeled over and died. Not to be denied, the plucky Emil took off on foot: both running and walking as fast as he could. He had less than a day to do it with no help from modern technology, not even a bus! Champion athlete of 1902 stood him in good stead for the task and, exhausted and hungry, he successfully delivered the papers with 90 minutes to spare, securing the lease for his brother, his father and himself. The Lawlers to Sandstone cycling record is his to this day at 14.1mph. He was also regarded as the local boxing champion. Emil went on to become a respectable farmer and businessman in the Salmon Gums area before setting out on his next career, politics.

Happily, his journey from there to Kanowna MLA and Minister for Justice and Railways in 1939 and again as MLA for Eyre in 1953, as Minister for Justice and Health was relatively straightforward. A home for disability services was named after him in 1956 and went on to become the biggest provider for the disabled in the state. He was also the first politician with a pilot’s license, which came in handy for an electorate spanning 213,000 square miles and reaching as far as the South Australian border.