Lord (Baron) Richard Gavin Gardiner Casey (1890-1976)
Nationality and occupation
Australian politician, diplomat, geologist, major in the AIF and 16th Governor-General of Australia
- 1914–19 – Served in the First Australian Imperial Force
- 1935–42 – Minister to Sir Robert Menzies
- 1944–46 – Governor of Bengal, India
- 1949–60 – Various ministerial portfolios
- 1953–54 – Established Mawson station, the first Australian station on the continent
- 1955–57 – Established Davis station at the beginning of the International Geophysical Year
- 1965–70 – Governor-General of Australia
- 1969 – Casey station was named in his honour
- 1969 – Named Australian of the Year.
Richard Gavin Gardiner Casey was born in Brisbane in 1890. As a child his family moved to Melbourne, where his father, a wealthy company director, sent him to Melbourne Grammar School. He was later a student at Melbourne University before completing a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Cambridge, England.
Casey worked as a geologist and mining consultant in Queensland, New Guinea and the United States before joining up with the AIF at the outbreak of World War I. He served at Gallipoli as orderly officer to Major General Sir William Bridges, and then in France. Promoted to the rank of major by the war’s end, he won the Military Cross and Distinguished Service Order.
With the war’s end and his father’s death in 1919, Casey replaced his father on many company boards. He was a personal friend of the then Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce, who in 1924 enticed him to leave the mining industry and join the public service as a liaison officer between Australia and Britain.
Casey was married to Ethel Marian Sumner (Maie) Ryan in London in 1926, the daughter of a Melbourne family friend. He returned briefly to Australia after his marriage, where Bruce tried unsuccessfully to convince him to enter politics. He was fortunate to miss the debacle of the 1929 election, when Bruce and most of his National Party colleagues lost their seats.
However, Casey’s appetite for politics had been whetted. Following his return to Melbourne he stood as a candidate for the newly-formed United Australia Party in the 1931 federal elections, becoming the member for the Geelong-based seat of Corio. In 1935, Prime Minister Joseph Lyons appointed him as treasurer.
In 1937, Casey had his first experience of Antarctic affairs as chairman of the polar committee of the Imperial Conference in London. He was a strong advocate for establishing permanent meteorological stations in the Antarctic to improve the accuracy of climatic data.
Robert Gordon Menzies, who became Prime Minister in 1939, appointed Casey Minister for Supply and Development, and in 1940 he was made the first Australian Minister to the United States of America, based in Washington. Casey handled his portfolio admirably but after John Curtin’s Labor Party came to power he moved to the United Kingdom in 1942, taking a position on the British War Cabinet as Minister of State in Cairo.
In 1943 Churchill appointed Casey Governor of Bengal in eastern India, where he was instrumental in major social and infrastructure improvements during and immediately after the war.
Returning to Melbourne in 1946, Richard Casey worked to win the seat of Latrobe for the Liberal Party under Menzies, a goal he achieved in 1949 when Menzies won government from Labor’s Ben Chifley. He was briefly Minister for Works and Housing and Minister for National Development before becoming Minister for External Affairs as well as Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). He continued to hold these portfolios until his retirement from parliament in 1960.
In his new role, Casey quickly took up the cause of Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions. Established by his Labor predecessor Herbert Vere Evatt in 1947, ANARE had already established bases on Heard and Macquarie Islands, but not yet on Antarctica itself. Casey made himself chairman of the ANARE Executive Planning Committee, working closely with the head of the Antarctic Division of his department, Phillip Law.
In 1953 Casey announced that Australia would send an expedition to mainland Antarctica in 1954, a goal it achieved with the establishment of Mawson station, using the Danish ship Kista Dan, in December 1954. Within three years, by the start of the International Geophysical Year, a second station, Davis, was established in the Vestfold Hills.
Casey’s support of Antarctic exploration and research over three decades was honoured with the naming of Australia's third Antarctic station, Casey, in 1969.
On Casey’s retirement in 1960 he accepted a life peerage. He was now Baron Casey of Berwick, Victoria, and took his seat in the House of Lords. In 1965 at the age of 74 he was made Governor-General. At the end of his five-year term he and his wife retired to their farm in Victoria. In the same year he was named Australian of the Year.
Lord Casey never fully recovered from a car accident in 1974, and died on 17 June 1976. Lady Casey died in 1983.