Australian Dictionary of Biography

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George Thomas Allen (1852–1940)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

George Thomas Allen (1852-1940), public servant, was born on 23 August 1852 at Geelong, Victoria, son of Thomas Watts Allen, bootmaker, and his wife Esther Elizabeth, née Odell, and elder brother of (Sir) Harry Brookes Allen. Educated at Flinders National School, Geelong, in 1868 he completed first year of an arts-law course at the University of Melbourne. He joined the Victorian Treasury as a clerk in December 1871 and by 1895 had risen to the position of accountant to the Treasury.  

In 1901 Sir George Turner, establishing the Commonwealth Treasury, chose Allen to be its first secretary; with J. R. Collins as assistant, he formed the department and settled methods of collecting revenue. Allen's permanence during the political instability of the first decade of the Commonwealth was of importance to the financial management of Australia. He had a leading hand in the budget speeches delivered during his term of office, and was 'the buttress and the support, the tutor and the guide' of all the early treasurers. Melbourne Punch in 1909 described him as a modest man and a formalist, 'a model of respectful studied politeness. His figure and his manner are straight and stiff as a ramrod'. He helped to draft the Act establishing the Commonwealth Bank in 1911, and was considered for the post of first governor of the bank, subsequently taken by (Sir) Denison Miller. Allen attended the 1911 Imperial Conference as an adviser to Prime Minister Andrew Fisher. In 1909 he had been appointed commissioner for pensions under the Old Age Pensions Act; next year invalid pensions were added to his duties and in 1912 he was made commissioner under the Maternity Allowance Act.

In 1910 Allen had acquired new duties under the Australian Notes Act, and his signature appeared on the new currency notes. In 1913 the Melbourne Herald commented that, though his methods were unobtrusive and his disposition retiring, 'his power in federal finance was something to be reckoned with'. Awarded the Imperial Service Order in 1903, he was appointed C.M.G. in 1913.

Allen retired on 14 March 1916. His chief interests were music and gardening; for many years he was treasurer of the Church of England home for boys at Canterbury, Victoria. Leaving an estate sworn for probate at £15,670, he died, unmarried, on 20 April 1940 at his home in Kew, and was buried in the local cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • L. F. Fitzhardinge, William Morris Hughes: A Political Biography, vol 1 (Syd, 1964)
  • Punch (Melbourne), 16 Sept 1909
  • Herald (Melbourne), 24 July 1926, 22 Apr 1940
  • Age (Melbourne), 22 Apr 1940.

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Allen, George Thomas (1852–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

George Thomas Allen, n.d

George Thomas Allen, n.d

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an22762607

Life Summary [details]


23 August, 1852
Geelong, Victoria, Australia


20 April, 1940 (aged 87)
Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.