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Sir William Austin Zeal (1830–1912)

Born in England in 1830, Sir William Austin Zeal died last month in Melbourne at the age of eighty-two years. It is only natural that after such a long, varied, and successful career as the late Sir William Zeal had that he should have made many and fast friends among all those with whom he came in touch. And not only those who knew him intimately or personally have cause to regret him, but the State of Victoria as a whole will grieve for his loss as he was a distinguished citizen, a great figure in its material and political development, and a man who gave the State faithful and generous service. His kindly, genial sympathy, his courtesy and his charming good nature made him loved and respected. He began life as a civil engineer, and practised his profession in England for a year or two, but in 1852 came to Victoria, and the next year was appointed to the Government service there. In 1859 he became engineer for the final section of the railway to Bendigo, and this engagement, which was very onerous and responsible, lasted till 1865. During this period he was elected by the constituency of Castlemaine to the Legislative Assembly, and thus began a Parliamentary career which lasted, with intervals of retirement, for forty-two years. And it was during his first experience in Parliament that Sir (then Mr.) William Zeal joined the late Sir William Mitchell in squatting pursuits on the Lachlan.

In 1862 he entered the Legislative Council as member for the North-western Province of Victoria, and in 1892 joined the Shiels Government as Postmaster-General, but resigned that portfolio in November of the same year on his being elected President of the Legislative Council. Three years later he was made a Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George, an honour well merited in consideration of his ungrudging services to the country. Sir William Zeal was one of the ten Victorian members of the Federal Convention, and a leading part was taken by him in the proceedings which resulted in the framing of the Commonwealth Constitution. He was elected a member of the Senate in the first Commonwealth Parliament, but retired voluntarily from public life in 1906.

In banking and financial matters Sir William Zeal was for many years one of the foremost men in Melbourne, his wide experience and keen judgment being highly valued, as is shown by the number of important companies of which he was a director. He was chairman of Goldsbrough, Mort and Co. Limited, chairman of the National Bank of Australasia Limited, chairman of the Victorian local board of the Australian Mutual Provident Society Limited, and chairman of the Perpetual Executors and Trustees Association of Australia Limited.

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'Zeal, Sir William Austin (1830–1912)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 April 2024.

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