The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Heales, Hon. Richard

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Heales, Hon. Richard, M.L.A., sometime Premier of Victoria, was the son of an ironmonger, and was apprenticed to a coachmaker. He was born in London, and, having married, emigrated to Victoria with his father in 1842. At first he worked as a journeyman coachbuilder, but soon became proprietor of the establishment in which he had been employed. In 1849 he was elected to the Melbourne City Council for Gipps Ward, and then paid a visit to England, which lasted from 1852 to 1855, during which he made himself prominent as an advocate of the Temperance cause. Responsible government having been conceded, he was elected to the Assembly for East Bourke in 1857, and became the leader of the advanced liberal party. In Nov. 1860 the Nicholson Ministry were defeated by a somewhat incongruous majority, which subsequently put forward Mr. Heales for the premiership, which he assumed in conjunction with the office of Chief Secretary. His Cabinet included such strong names as those of Ireland, Verdon, J. M. Grant, and others; and Mr. Heales sketched out a democratic programme which included payment or members, reform of the Upper House, and protection to native industries, all of which were subsequently achieved after a long and arduous struggle. Finding himself in a minority, Mr. Heales obtained a dissolution in July 1861; but his fiscal policy being distrusted, he had to make way for Mr. (afterwards Sir) John O'Shanassy in the following November. As a private member, Mr. Heales was able to achieve a great triumph in the passing of a measure which he introduced for the maintenance and establishment of common schools, and which virtually laid the foundation of the present advanced state school system of Victoria. This bill, which dissolved the Denominational School Board, and vested in a new "Board of Education" the property held by the National School Board, and rendered religions teaching optional and separate from the secular instruction imparted, received the royal assent in June 1862. In June of the next year Mr. Heales joined the first McCulloch Government—the most powerful ever formed in the colony—as Minister of Lands, subordinating his personal claims to leadership in order to assist in the imposition of a moderate protective tariff. He died, however, just before the general election which strengthened their hands to propose it, and to enter on the bitter struggle with the Upper House in which it eventuated. His premature death took place on June 19th, 1864.