Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Clive Shields (1879–1956)

by Geoff Browne

This article was published:

Clive Shields (1879-1956), medical practitioner and politician, was born on 28 April 1879 at Hamilton, Victoria, seventh surviving child of Tasmanian-born William Shields, postmaster, and his Irish wife Elizabeth, née Knaggs. His education began at Hamilton State School and proceeded, by way of a scholarship, to University High School where he matriculated with first-class honours in Greek and Latin. In 1897 Shields entered Trinity College, University of Melbourne (B.A., 1900; M.B., 1905; M.A., B.S., 1906). He shared the exhibition in therapeutics, dietetics and hygiene and won the prize for forensic medicine. He also edited the medical students' journal, Speculum, was president of Trinity's Dialectic Society, and represented his college in football, cricket and tennis.

In 1906-07 Shields served as resident surgeon at the (Royal) Melbourne Hospital, the (Royal) Children's Hospital and the Infectious Diseases Hospital. Late in 1907 he moved to Western Australia where he became a highly successful goldfields practitioner; he would later say that 'practically all my professional life has been spent in mining communities'. On 1 June 1908 at West Perth, he married Catherine Lloyd Williams.

Shields returned to Victoria in 1919 and settled at Malmsbury. In 1928 he retired from medicine and visited Europe and South Africa. After the death of his wife in 1930 he decided to enter public life. He prepared himself by studying economics and politics and served for two years as secretary of the local sustenance committee. In May 1932, standing as a United Australia Party candidate, Shields won the Legislative Assembly seat of Castlemaine and Kyneton. His talents were conspicuous and he did not remain long on the back-bench. In November 1933 he was appointed honorary minister in charge of sustenance in the Argyle government, retaining the post until March 1935 when he was made minister of agriculture and of mines. Two weeks later the government was defeated in the assembly.

In July 1936, frustrated by the 'ultra-conservative' views predominant in the U.A.P., Shields became deputy leader of a breakaway group of seven, known as Country Liberals. After the October 1937 election the Country Liberals split and he rejoined the U.A.P.

Shields took a particular interest in slum abolition. His ideal was the outer-suburban home serviced by free or subsidized public transport; he wanted to 'get away as far as possible from the system of building barrack houses or flats'. In 1935 he spoke out strongly against a provision in the Health Act which made sufferers from infectious disease liable for the costs of hospital treatment. Next year he made valuable suggestions for the strengthening of the miners' phthisis relief bill, but saw his most important amendment rejected by the Dunstan government. By 1938 Shields had become totally disillusioned with politics. He was 'fed up with oiling the parish pump'; the average voter only wanted personal favours and cared nothing for democracy. What the country needed was 'a taste of dictatorship'. He retired from parliament in February 1940 and left Malmsbury to live in Melbourne. On 16 April at Kew he married Dorothy Margaret Grace Hart.

Shields had a keen if somewhat cynical sense of humour and was an excellent story-teller. His favourite hobby was angling which he pursued regularly in Queensland. Survived by his wife, Shields died, childless, at his Kew home on 4 September 1956; he was cremated with Presbyterian forms. His estate was valued for probate at £46,038.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (Victoria), 1939, p 353
  • Castlemaine Mail, 26 Apr 1932
  • Argus (Melbourne), 22 Nov 1933
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 29 July 1936
  • Herald (Melbourne), 14 Oct 1937, 17 Aug 1938
  • private information.

Citation details

Geoff Browne, 'Shields, Clive (1879–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 14 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


28 April, 1879
Hamilton, Victoria, Australia


4 September, 1956 (aged 77)
Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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