Born in Brighton on 25 November 1921, John William Geoffrey "Joe" Palliser was the second child and only son of bank manager Geoffrey Beaumont Palliser (1882-1939) and his first wife, the former Kate Langeveldt (1894-1925). After the sudden death of Joe's mother, six months before his fourth birthday, his father married again, to Marion Eveline Embleton (1884-1949), who raised Joe and his sister Barbara (1921-1979) as her own.
Palliser had evidently begun tertiary study at the Univeristy of Melbourne by August 1940, when he was attached to the Melbourne Universiy Rifles. After the unit disbanded in March 1942, Palliser enlisted with the Royal Australian Navy and served with HMAS Lonsdale at Port Melbourne, where his fellow servicemen included future architects Bruce Marshall, Geoffrey Danne and David Chancellor. Discharged in February 1946 with the rank of Sub-Lieutenant, Palliser resumed his studies, enrolling at the University of Melbourne Architectural Atelier the following year. Initially undertaking the day course that had been created specifically for ex-servicemen, he remained at the atelier until 1950. His Bachelor of Architecture degree was conferred in April 1951, and he became registered as an architect in December.
Concurrently with his atelier studies, Palliser worked in the office of Yuncken, Freeman Brothers, Griffiths & Simpson, and he remained there after graduation. Towards the end of the 1950s, he established his own architectural practice, operating from a terrace house at 118 Hotham Street, East Melbourne. The same building accommodated several other architectural firms, including Hume Sherrard, Montgomery King & Trengove and later Daryl Jackson Evan Walker. The offices of Keith Reid, John Pearson, Peter Jorgensen and Borland & Trewenack were all located next door at No 114, while Murray Nankervis had his practice nearby at No 120.
Little is currently known of the size and scope of Palliser's practice; his staff included George Cassasayas, who would later rise to a senior position in Daryl Jackson's office. Palliser's output appears to have been largely in the residential sphere. Around 1961, he designed a house in Malvern later claimed to have been the first in Melbourne laid out around a rectangular courtyard (and notably, also incorporating a retractable roof). From the late 1950s until the 1980s, Palliser and his wife Katherine resided in a house in Malvern that he presumably designed himself. He maintained his professional address in Hotham Street until the later 1970s, when it relocated to a converted pre-war factory at Morang Road, Hawthorn. Palliser was still in practice there at the time of his death on 18 August 1988, aged 67 years. At the time, he had recently been appointed as Honorary Architect to the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria; he was succeeded to that position by Peter McIntyre.
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