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Dyason, Edward Clarence Evelyn (1886–1949)

by Maya V. Tucker

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Edward Clarence Evelyn Dyason (1886-1949), company director, economist, mining engineer and stockbroker, was born on 8 April 1886 at Sandhurst (Bendigo), Victoria, son of Isaac Edward Dyason, property manager from Kent, England, and his wife Harriet Eastwood, née Mason, from Guernsey, Channel Islands. Dyason was educated at St Andrew's College, Bendigo, and the University of Melbourne, graduating B Sc in 1908 and BME in 1909. He began his very successful business career while still an undergraduate, taking up the first of many company directorships when 19. Enduring friendship at the university began with (Sir) David Rivett and (Judge) Alfred Foster; later academic friends were to include Sir Harrison Moore, Lyndhurst Falkiner Giblin and (Sir) Samuel Wadham. On 9 April 1914 at St Andrew's Church of England, Brighton, he married Anne Elizabeth McClure, who bore him a son and two daughters.

Dyason practised as a mining engineer at Bendigo and Melbourne before setting up his own stockbroking company, Edward Dyason & Co., in Melbourne in 1921. He kept up his mining interests: his Report on the Bendigo Goldfield Central Area (Bendigo, 1916) had accompanied a letter to the Victorian minister of mines urging re-establishment of gold-mining in the area: it was later used by Dyason, G. Lindesay Clark and William Robinson in setting up Bendigo mines Ltd in 1934. Dyason was also on the boards of Napoleon (B.M.L.) Mines and Derby and Carshalton Reefs. He owned the unprofitable Maude and Yellow Girl Mine at Glen Wills, which remained in operation until the last employee had reached retirement. Other firms with which he was associated included Melbourne Dry Docks, Kraft Foods Ltd, G. G. Goode Ltd, Pelaco Ltd, A. W. Allen Ltd and J. C. Hutton Pty Ltd. In 1918-22 Dyason was president of the Chamber of Mines of Victoria and in 1918-25 of the Gold Producers' Association of Australia. He joined the Melbourne Stock Exchange in 1921.

Describing himself as a 'militant pacifist' throughout the war, for the rest of his life Dyason supported 'peace through systems and regulations'. After the war he joined or contributed money to organizations such as the Australian Peace Alliance and the World Disarmament Movement, formed in 1928. His study of 'psychology of conflict' theory dated from the late 1920s.

Dyason was a 'valuable link between academic economists and the business world'. As an economist he was ahead of his time in favouring unorthodox rather than traditional solutions to the Depression. Politicians of all parties sought his advice, resulting in his membership of various unofficial committees set up by the Commonwealth government between 1921 and 1931 to deal with economic problems. In 1924 he reviewed the work of the Arbitration Court with Harrison Moore for Prime Minister Stanley Melbourne (Viscount) Bruce. In 1929, with Giblin, (Sir) Douglas Copland and others, he reported to the prime minister on the costs and compensations of the Australian tariff; Melbourne University Press published their findings as The Australian Tariff in the same year. Dyason, Copland and Giblin also issued two memoranda in 1930 which were used as a basis for the decision to depreciate the currency and in the formulation of the Premiers' Plan in 1931. Dyason and Giblin were called upon by Edward Theodore to persuade the banks to agree to a compromise which would limit unavoidable deflation. Dyason himself advocated a liberal credit policy. Never a publicity-seeker, he rejected both a knighthood and attempts to get him into politics.

In 1924 Dyason was a founding member of the Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand, was president of the Victorian branch in 1926-28 and of its central council in 1930 and 1932. He was also on the editorial board of the Economic Record from 1925 to 1931, and contributed numerous articles to its pages. In the 1930s he set up a monthly digest known as the Edward Dyason & Co. Economic Service.

Always an internationalist, in search of the cause and treatment of international disharmony, Dyason helped to establish the Australian Institute of International Affairs in 1933 and was active in its Victorian branch. He chaired the Bureau of Social and International Affairs (Melbourne) in 1930-32 and 1934-39. In 1948 he gave £600 to the University of Melbourne to fund research in 'social conflict and prejudice'. He also provided money to bring F. S. C. Northrop to Australia on a lecture tour; as he intended, this was the first of an annual series made under the aegis of the A.I.I.A., later known as the Dyason Memorial Lectures. Speakers included Bertrand Russell, Julian Huxley and A. J. Toynbee.

Asia and its philosophies had always fascinated Dyason and he visited China and the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Zen Buddhism in particular caught his interest. In 1939 he set up the Austral-Asiatic Bulletin; this publication merged in 1947 with the A.I.I.A.'s Australian Outlook. The onset of war prevented Dyason from visiting Japan and the Far East to explore Zen Buddhism at first hand and instead he went to the United States of America in 1940 for a preliminary study of the Far East at the Rockefeller Institute, the Carnegie Foundation and the Institute of Pacific Relations. He had wanted for some years to leave Australia 'to shake myself free … from institutional and national involvement' in order to study the wider issues 'confronting our race and civilization'. When Australian monetary funds were blocked, Dyason moved to Buenos Aires at the end of 1940. His overtures in 1941 to Prime Minister John Curtin over becoming Australia's representative to South America were considered but came to nothing.

Dyason was a trim, dapper man, and wore a Spanish grandee style beard. Full of verve and fun, he had, according to Copland, 'a flair for the paradoxical that at times shocked the more sober-minded of his hearers'. He enjoyed boating, bushwalking, squash and skiing and was a champion royal tennis player; he also collected art and appreciated the ballet, theatre and music (taking part in setting up the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in the 1920s). While brought up as an Anglican, he did not belong in later years to any church. He was a member of the Athenaeum Club, Melbourne.

After the war Dyason moved to England. He died of coronary vascular disease at sea, aboard the Queen Mary on 3 October 1949 after leading the Australian delegation to the British Commonwealth Relations Conference at Bigwin, Ontario. His ashes were scattered over the property he had bought in Surrey. His estate in Victoria was valued for probate at £174,590.

Select Bibliography

  • E. M. Moore, The Quest for Peace as I Have Known it in Australia (Melb, 1950)
  • C. D. W. Goodwin, The Image of Australia (Durham, N. C., 1974)
  • Australian Outlook, Dec 1949
  • Economic Record, June 1950, p 107
  • papers of E. Dyason, and Dyason Foundation (University of Melbourne Archives).

Citation details

Maya V. Tucker, 'Dyason, Edward Clarence Evelyn (1886–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dyason-edward-clarence-evelyn-6069/text10387, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 25 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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