Australian Dictionary of Biography

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George Daniel Healy (1872–1967)

by D. T. Merrett

This article was published:

George Daniel Healy (1872-1967), banker, was born on 11 August 1872 at Maryborough, Victoria, son of Joseph Austin Healy, a Dublin-born clerk of the local mining board, and his wife Ann, née Spence, from Aberdeen, Scotland. In 1889 he joined the Mercantile Bank of Australia, then in 1892 the British-owned Bank of Australasia as clerk in its Australian headquarters at 394 Collins Street, Melbourne. He married Florence Mabel Young at Scots Church, Melbourne, on 10 April 1909; they had two sons and a daughter.

In 1910 Healy was promoted confidential clerk to the newly appointed superintendent, C. J. Henderson. By 1914 he had become an inspector. Immediately after the war he took charge of the day to day negotiations with the newly formed Bank Officials' Association, and argued the banks' case before various industrial tribunals, often interstate. Henderson sent him to London for further experience in 1922. The Court of Directors recognized his potential and urged that he be appointed manager of the Melbourne branch. He took up this post on his return from London and became superintendent on Henderson's retirement in October 1926.

Healy was a conservative banker who followed his often expressed motto of 'safety first'; under his stewardship the bank followed a cautious lending policy. Some expansion occurred in the form of a short-lived search for new accounts, the opening of new branches, and of new activities such as small personal loans, the issue of travellers' cheques, and the creation of a Ladies Banking Department in the remodelled building in Collins Street. These developments owed more to the promptings of the directors and pressure from aggressive competitors than to his own inclinations.

Like most senior bankers Healy believed that regulation by a central bank was unnecessary and dangerous if the central bank was not independent of the government. He was prepared to co-operate to a degree with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth and State governments during the Depression and with the New Zealand government during its exchange crisis of 1938-39, but only on stringent conditions.

As chairman of the Associated Banks of Victoria in 1931-32 Healy spoke for the five Melbourne-based trading banks during the formulation of the Premiers' Plan and negotiations with the Commonwealth Bank concerning the exchange rate and other matters. Chairman again in 1935-36, he played a full part in the royal commission on money and banking as a witness and behind the scenes. His last term as chairman in 1941-42 coincided with the far-reaching National Security (War-time Banking Control) Regulations of November 1941 that gave the Australian government complete control over banking. During the war he became a senior spokesman for the business community as president of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce in 1939-43 and as president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia in 1941-43. In 1942-57 he was a director of the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society.

In 1933 the directors asked Healy, who had reached the age of retirement, to stay on as superintendent. However, by the early 1940s they were becoming increasingly concerned about the bank's lack of progress and reluctantly invited him to retire in April 1944. Healy died in Brisbane on 20 November 1967.

Healy was a tireless worker who set himself the highest standards of professional and personal conduct and expected no less from his staff. Tall and powerfully built, he impressed those about him as a commanding and rather intimidating figure. He was a highly disciplined man, though given to occasional bursts of temper, and his austere personal manner set him apart from his staff and all but the most important of the bank's customers.

Select Bibliography

  • S. J. Butlin, Australia and New Zealand Bank (Melb, 1961)
  • Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd Archives, Melbourne, and information from Mr F. S. Holt, archivist.

Citation details

D. T. Merrett, 'Healy, George Daniel (1872–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 29 May 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

Life Summary [details]


11 August, 1872
Maryborough, Victoria, Australia


20 November, 1967 (aged 95)
Brisbane, Queensland, 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.