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George Henry Bennett, Councillor, Richmond, Victoria (1850-1908)

Medal - Queen Victoria Jubilee, City of Richmond Fete,1887 AD

Image: Medal - Queen Victoria Jubilee, City of Richmond Fete,1887 AD

Source: Museum Victoria

George Henry Bennett was born in Banffshire, Scotland. He arrived in Victoria with his mother in 1855, joining his father who had become Town Clerk of Collingwood. Bennett was educated at St Patrick's College and began work with a carrying firm. He showed such promise that he was managing the firm by the age of 19. He then managed the Victoria Sugar Co. before joining Timothy Lane, who operated the port-brewing business Excelsior Brewery, about 1877.

In 1879 Bennett married Jessie Mill and they had three daughters.

In the face of competition from larger firms, Bennett and Lane turned to the manufacture of aerated waters and cordials at Richmond. From August 1883 Bennett managed the business alone, and by 1902 had a well-equipped factory with stables for 56 horses.

Bennett resided in Richmond and was an active community member, contributing to sporting organisations and holding high office in the United Ancient Order of Druids. He was also an active Catholic. In 1880 he became the youngest councillor in the Colony when he was elected to Richmond Town Council at the age of 30. As Mayor 1886-87 he helped restore faith in the financially mismanaged government.

In May 1899 Bennett was elected to a double-member seat of Richmond in the Legislative Assembly, and was undefeated in the next seven elections. His success owned much to his involvement in the local community. He was a liberal and a protectionist, and spoke in opposition to the Deakin-Gillies government, disagreeing with its management of the maritime strike and supporting measures that favoured the working classes. He also supported the movement for an eight-hour day. However, he found it increasingly difficult to reconcile these views with his position as a successful capitalist, and eventually crossed the floor to vote for a bill against striking railway workers. He was also a stubborn opponent of female suffrage.

Bennett held the presidency of the Licenced Victuallers' Association for several years, and argued for lower duties on liquor.

Bennett died at his home from a bout of pneumonia, at the age of 58. He was survived by his wife and two of their daughters.

References:
Australian Dictionary of Biography website http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/adbonline.htm

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