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Sir Rupert Hamer AC KCMG ED

1916 – 2004

Sir Rupert ‘Dick’ Hamer AC KCMG (1916-2004) was premier of Victoria from 1972 to 1981. Born in Kew, he was educated at Geelong Grammar and Trinity College, the University of Melbourne, where he gained his master’s degree in law. During World War 2 he served with the AIF in the Middle East, New Guinea and Europe; he was a ‘Rat of Tobruk’. On his return to Melbourne he became a partner in the law firm Smith and Emmerton. He became the member for East Yarra in 1958, and held this position until 1971, when he became the member for Kew. The following year, when Sir Henry Bolte retired, he became premier. Taking a softer, more progressive approach than Bolte, he created the ombudsman’s office, set up the Historic Buildings Preservation Council, abolished capital punishment, decriminalised homosexuality and established the Equal Opportunity Board; he shepherded the development of the Arts Centre, established the Land Conservation Council and came up with the concept of Victoria as the Garden State. He also expanded the tram network. In retirement he served various organisations including the Save the Children Fund, the Victorian State Opera and the Australian Republican Movement. In death he was praised by Liberal and Labor leaders alike for his intelligence, compassion and democratic commitment to the wellbeing of the community; paying tribute to his leadership, Phillip Law said ‘the state has other functions than simply helping selfish people to get money.’ The main concert hall of the Melbourne Arts Centre was re-named Hamer Hall not long after his state funeral in 2004. A biography by Tim Colebatch, Dick Hamer: The liberal Liberal was published in 2014.

Updated 2018
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