Rupert (‘Dick’) Hamer proved to be one of Australia’s most innovative premiers. One sign of his unusual prestige is that this history of his life and times has perhaps been publicly praised more by Labor leaders than by his own Liberal colleagues.
Hamer’s family background was in the church, law, business, and politics. His paternal grandfather was the minister of the wealthy Independent Church (now called St Michael’s) on Collins Street, where he was distinguished for his highbrow sermons and the astonishingly high salary he received. Hamer was born in 1916 and was formally christened Rupert after a relative who had died at Gallipoli the previous year. He was a studious boarder at Geelong Grammar, eventually winning first class honours in three languages – Latin, French, and Ancient Greek. A school friend described him as never ‘fussed or flustered’. Those qualities remained with him. He could come home to suburban Canterbury after a turbulent week in parliament and sleep like a rock, then dig happily in the garden next morning.