Goff Letts


Goff Letts

Dr Godfrey Alan (Goff) Letts CBE (b. 18 June 1928) was the Majority Leader of the Northern Territory of Australia from 1974 to 1977.

Born in Donald, Victoria, Letts attended Melbourne Grammar and Melbourne and Sydney Universities, graduating with a Bachelor of Veterinarian Science in 1950. Letts gained employment with the Victorian Department of Agriculture and married Joyce Crosby on 29 October 1952. Together they had three sons and three daughters [Heatley, A. (1996) “Letts, Godfrey Alan (Goff)”, pp 192 – 194, "Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography", vol. 3. Ed. Carment, D. & Wilson, H. NTU Press: Casuarina.] .

Letts moved to the Northern Territory in 1957, initially working in Alice Springs before transferring to Darwin as the District Veterinary Officer for the Northern Region of the Northern Territory. He was appointed Director of the Animal Industry and Agriculture Branch of the Northern Territory in 1963, Chair of the Northern Territory Wildlife Council and to the Northern Territory Lands Board in 1964. Awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 1966, Letts was appointed to the Northern Territory Legislative Council in 1967 as an official (non-elected) member representing the Department of Lands and Primary Industry before his growing disillusionment with the bureaucratic control of the Territory from Canberra led to him resigning from these positions in 1970 to enter private industry as a vet [Heatley, A. (1996) “Letts, Godfrey Alan (Goff)”, pp 192 – 194, "Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography", vol. 3. Ed. Carment, D. & Wilson, H. NTU Press: Casuarina.] .

A founding member of the Northern Territory branch of the Country Party in 1966, Letts' high political profile in the Territory led him to successfully contest the Legislative Council seat of Victoria River for the Country Party at the 1971 elections and subsequently become leader of the Country Party in the Council. Following the announcement of the creation of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to replace the Council, Letts founded the Country Liberal Party and led the CLP to victory at the 1974 election, winning 17 of 19 seats and elected Majority Leader [Powell, A. (1988) "Far Country: A Short History of the Northern Territory", Melbourne University Press, Carlton. ISBN 00 522 84377 8.] .

As Majority Leader, Letts prepared the Territory for self-government as well as administering the day-to-day running of Territory affairs, and was generally considered a capable leader. It was therefore surprising when he lost his seat at the 1977 election, a rare occurrence of an Australian national, state or territory leader losing their own seat in an election, and which he blamed on his long absences from the electorate on Majority Leader business [Heatley, A. (1996) “Letts, Godfrey Alan (Goff)”, pp 192 – 194, "Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography", vol. 3. Ed. Carment, D. & Wilson, H. NTU Press: Casuarina.] .

Following his departure from politics, Letts served as Chair of the Board of Inquiry into Feral Animals in the Northern Territory from 1978-79, on the Advisory Council to the CSIRO from 1979-83 and on the Uranium Advisory Council from 1979-83.He was pre-selected by the CLP to contest the Division of Northern Territory at the 1980 federal election but withdrew to accept the position of CEO of the Northern Territory Conservation Commission [Heatley, A. (1996) “Letts, Godfrey Alan (Goff)”, pp 192 – 194, "Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography", vol. 3. Ed. Carment, D. & Wilson, H. NTU Press: Casuarina.] .

Made a Trustee of the World Wildlife Fund in 1981, Letts resigned from his position at the Conservation Commission in 1983 to stand as an independent for the Alice Springs based seat of Araluen at the 1983 Territory election, in opposition to the CLP's attitudes towards the Commonwealth and indigenous people. Following his loss at the poll, Letts left the Territory to work in his family's newspaper business in Victoria.

Known as the “Father of self-government”, Letts was awarded a CBE in 1978 for his services to the Territory and public administration ["It's an Honour", http://itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/honour_roll/search.cfm?aus_award_id=1065290&search_type=quick&showInd=true Accessed 10 October 2007.]

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