HEALES, Richard (c. 1822-1864)


HEALES, Richard (c. 1822-1864)
premier of Victoria
son of an ironmonger, was born at London and came to Melbourne with his father in 1842. The year of his birth is sometimes given as 1823, but as his death notice stated that he was 42 years of age in June 1864, he probably was born in either the second half of 1821 or the first half of 1822. Heales had learned the trade of coachbuilder, but in his early days in Victoria he suffered privations, and was obliged at times to work as a day labourer at six shillings a day. He was a teetotaller and first came into notice as a lecturer on total abstinence; it was largely through his exertions that the Temperance Hall in Russell-street, Melbourne, was built. By 1850 Heales's financial position had much improved, he had opened a business for himself, and being of a saving disposition had now a private income. He was elected to the Melbourne city council in 1850, in 1852 took a trip to England to see his friends, and was away for about two years. He Was back in Melbourne early in 1855, and at the first general election under the new constitution, held in September 1856, was defeated for a Melbourne seat in the legislative assembly. He was, however, returned for East Bourke early in 1857. In 1859 he was elected for East Bourke boroughs, and held this seat for the rest of his life. In October 1860 Heales was a vigorous critic of the land bill brought in by the Nicholson (q.v.) ministry, and on the defeat of this ministry became premier on 26 November 1860. Heales advocated a land policy allowing free selection before survey with payments extended over a long term, but in June 1861 he was defeated on a no-confidence motion. An appeal to the country brought the government back with an increased majority, but there was a defection of some of his leading supporters, and he resigned in November 1861. In opposition he showed considerable parliamentary ability' and in spite of the government succeeded in passing the common schools act. When the third O'Shanassy (q.v.) ministry was defeated in June 1863, Heales became president of the board of land and works and commissioner of crown lands and survey in the first McCulloch (q.v.) ministry. He brought in two land bills, both of which were rejected by the legislative council, and it is probable that hard work and anxiety were partly responsible for his falling into ill health. He died on 19 June 1864. He married when very young, and left a widow and eight children.
Heales had been a working man himself, and when premier, showed solicitude for the mining population and the position of the labouring classes generally. His earnestness and sincerity brought him many friends and admirers, and his early death robbed the state of an honest and able man whose short political career was of unusual promise.
The Argus and The Age, Melbourne, 20 June 1864; H. G. Turner, A History of the Colony of Victoria.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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