Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Tasman Shields (1872–1950)

by John O'Hara

This article was published:

Tasman Shields (1872-1950), politician and lawyer, was born at Launceston, Tasmania, on 20 November 1872, one of four sons of George Shields, blacksmith, and his wife Isabella, née Mowat. Educated at Launceston Church Grammar School, he served articles with William Martin, was admitted to the Bar in 1894 and graduated LL.B. from the University of Tasmania in 1906. On 17 March 1902 at Campbell Town with Anglican rites he married Ella Maude Mary Allison (d.1934).

Shields initially practised alone; afterwards, with J. E. Heritage, he joined with Martin & (F. C.) Hobkirk (later Shields, Heritage, (C. K.) Stackhouse & Martin). He was noted, in a distinguished career, especially for his work in the Criminal Court and his service to the legal profession as president of the Northern Tasmanian Law Society and member of the Tasmanian Law Reform Committee. He was appointed K.C. in 1938.

After unsuccessfully contesting South Esk in 1914, Shields was elected to the Legislative Council next year, remaining until his defeat in 1936. His brother George (1854-1933) represented Bass in the Lower House in 1923-25 and his cousin Clive Shields was a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1932-40. Reluctant to seek high office and jeopardize his legal practice, in 1916 Shields declined the attorney-general portfolio in (Sir) Walter Lee's Liberal government, but accepted a position of minister without portfolio. In the succeeding Hayes ministry of August 1922 to August 1923 Shields remained honorary minister until his sensational resignation on 6 December 1922 over cabinet's timid financial policy.

Ironically, his most important political contribution came in 1926 during the Lyons Labor administration. That year Shields and A. G. Ogilvie prepared the submission to Sir Nicholas Lockyer on Tasmania's economic difficulties under Federation, resulting in the Tasmanian Sinking Fund Agreement of 1928; he also helped to prepare the 1934 and 1935 'Case for Tasmania'.

When his political fortunes declined, Shields increased his involvement in community affairs. From the mid-1930s he served on the executive of the Northern Tasmanian Anti-Cancer Council, the Society for the Care of Crippled Children, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Royal Auto-car Club of Tasmania, Northern Tasmanian Fisheries Association and the northern branch of the Royal Society of Tasmania. The development of an aluminium industry in the Launceston region owed much to his efforts as president of the Launceston Chamber of Commerce.

His greatest sporting attachment was to the Northern Tasmanian Football Association: president for over twenty-five years, he donated the annual Tasman Shields trophy for the best and fairest player; in 1945 when severe illness caused his retirement from business and community commitments he retained only his association with the N.T.F.A.

Appointed C.M.G. in 1931, Shields died in Launceston on 28 August 1950. He was survived by his second wife Hannah Doris, née Buckney, whom he had married at Launceston with Methodist forms on 2 August 1947, and by his daughter from his first marriage. He was cremated after a Methodist service.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Robson, A Short History of Tasmania (Melb, 1985)
  • Examiner (Launceston), 7 Dec 1922, 30 July 1938, 29 Aug 1950
  • Weekly Courier (Launceston), 13 Feb, 8 May 1929
  • Mercury (Hobart), 1 Sept 1950.

Citation details

John O'Hara, 'Shields, Tasman (1872–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 25 May 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]


20 November, 1872
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia


28 August, 1950 (aged 77)
Launceston, Tasmania, 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.