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Martin Peter Hansen (1874–1932)

by L. J. Blake

This article was published:

Martin Hansen, n.d.

Martin Hansen, n.d.

photo provided by family

Martin Peter Hansen (1874-1932), educationist, was born on 24 January 1874 at Crosbie, Victoria, third surviving child of Hans Truelsen Hansen, farmer, and his wife Caroline, née Hollander, both from Schleswig (Prussia). Educated at Toolleen primary school, he won a scholarship to Scotch College, Melbourne, where he boarded in 1887-89. He matriculated in November 1890. An unpaid junior teacher from August 1891 at Abbotsford primary school, he qualified as a teacher of military drill before entering on 18 July 1892 the Teaching Institute, where he obtained his Trained Teacher's Certificate and won the Gladman prize for teaching.

Hansen was appointed in July 1893 as head teacher at Cochranes Creek near Bealiba. Before he resigned in February 1895, he was commended for having greatly improved his school. After teaching at University High School for two years he rejoined the Education Department in December 1896 as assistant at Warrnambool. Next year he began duty as head teacher at Ripplebrook, Gippsland. In November he took charge of St Leonards and Paywit North schools on the Bellarine Peninsula but by 1898 was teaching full time at Paywit North.

While in the country he pursued university studies, graduating B.A. (1898), LL.B. (1899) and M.A. (1900), and winning the Bowen prize in 1898. On 5 February 1900 he resigned from the department to accept a position at Wesley College and, on 11 July at Woodford, he married Margaret Morgan, manager of a coffee palace at Warrnambool; they had a son. At Wesley Hansen began as a sports master and then became noted as a teacher of natural science. As first assistant master he did much of the organizing of the school and from April to November 1907 served as headmaster while Adamson was overseas. Hansen helped to found the (Incorporated) Association of Secondary School Teachers of Victoria in 1904. He produced two successful textbooks on physics for schools and with Alfred Hart published English Ideals (1903) and Typical Selections in Prose and Poetry (1912); he collaborated with D. McLachlan in the 1912 publication of An Austral Garden: an Anthology of Verse.

On 10 February 1909 Hansen rejoined the Education Department as inspector of registered teachers and schools and began his valuable association with Frank Tate. On 8 August he became chief inspector and chairman of classifiers of secondary schools. He went overseas in 1922-23 and on his return urged in a report on education in Britain and America the trial of the 'platoon' or notary system of organization in schools. He deplored the emergence in Victoria of a dual system of secondary and technical schools instead of one secondary multicourse establishment for each area.

Hansen was assistant director of education from 1925 and acting director from 1927; on 25 June 1928 he succeeded Tate as director. Early next year he set up committees to plan the co-ordination of post-primary education but the antipathy of the minister, John Lemmon, who refused approval for multi-purpose schools, combined with the onset of the Depression with harsh financial cut-backs, effectively destroyed the proposals. During 1930 Hansen set up a committee to investigate teaching techniques for use with visual education equipment. To a board of inquiry in 1931 he proposed the consolidation of schools in both city and country, the creation of separate classified rolls for primary, secondary and technical teachers, and the abolition of the time-honoured Merit Certificate. His term as director, however, was marked by a bitter ideological conflict with Donald Clark, chief inspector of technical schools, his opposition to the appointment of Julia Flynn as chief inspector of secondary schools, and growing disharmony with his minister. His health suffered. But his last book, a collection of lectures delivered in Australia and New Zealand, Thoughts that Breathe (1932), gave emphasis to the numerous educational reforms that he sought and to his belief that 'a spirit of joint responsibility, the sense of partnership, and the practice of mutual consultation' must be developed by teachers and students. He argued the need for 'the suppression of class consciousness and of individual greed'.

Hansen had been appointed to the Council of the University of Melbourne in 1923. R. H. Croll described him as an 'absolutely just person, sympathetic, firm in his judgments but a patient listener, a delightful companion, but never more … than when the conversation took a bookish turn'.

Over the years Hansen had kept up his interest in athletics. He had been president of the Wallaby Club, a member of the Beefsteak and Boobook clubs and for some ten years from 1905 secretary of the Melbourne Shakespeare Society.

Hansen became ill in April 1932 but recovered and returned to work. After a relapse he died from duodenal haemorrhage at his home at Toorak on 11 December 1932 and was buried in Boroondara cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • R. J. W. Selleck, Frank Tate: A Biography (Melb, 1982)
  • Education Department (Victoria), Vision and Realisation, L. J. Blake ed (Melb, 1973)
  • Age (Melbourne), 28 June 1928
  • Herald (Melbourne), 30 June 1928
  • Education Dept (Victoria), records (History section, Education Dept, Melbourne, and Public Record Office Victoria).

Citation details

L. J. Blake, 'Hansen, Martin Peter (1874–1932)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Martin Hansen, n.d.

Martin Hansen, n.d.

photo provided by family

Life Summary [details]


24 January, 1874
Crosbie, Victoria, Australia


11 December, 1932 (aged 58)
Toorak, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.