Heritage Guide to The Geelong College

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DICKINSON, Harley Rivers (1938-2008)

Harley Dickinson.

Harley Dickinson.

DICKINSON, Harley Rivers (1938-2008) Administrator, parliamentarian and artist, Harley Dickinson was well known in his later years for his idiosyncratic approach to life.

Born at Richmond, Victoria to parents Rivers Arthur Dickinson and Dolina Marion nee Arbuckle, he first attended Croydon State School before becoming a boarder at Geelong College from 1949 to 1957 where he rowed in one of Albert Bell’s renowned premiership crews in the 1957 Head of the River.

His four children also attended the College. A School Prefect and Vice-Captain of Morrison House he was also a member of the School’s United Nations Committee. At School he was a member of the athletics team and a talented long distance athlete competing with distinction in the 880 yards and 1 mile events at the School Sports. Harley was also a member of the 2 mile relay team which earned awards for its participants for breaking the College record for this race. He served with the School Cadet Unit in ‘A’ Company. Although not noted for his skills in the dramatic arts, he nevertheless appeared in the chorus of the College Glee Club’s 1954 production HMS Pinafore. He, was, however, most credited with his ‘especially brilliant’ portrayal of John in the mock-heroic play The Man in the Bowler Hat - part of the notorious boarding house production of ‘Cottage Pie, Slice VII’ of 1957. A highlight of his time at School as a member of the House of Guilds was his restoration of a Cobb and Co coach later donated to the Beechworth Carriage Museum.

Harley had an active and adventurous administrative service life in Papua New Guinea at a critical time in its transition to nationhood. After failing his matriculation the then Principal, Arnold Buntine, also a family friend, provided Harley with an introduction to the Papua-New Guinea Administrator. Harley was offered employment with the Royal Papua-New Guinea Constabulary and in 1958 became an officer in the Department of the Administrator, Papua-New Guinea serving as a patrol officer, and district officer until 1970. In 1964, he married Nicola Charlotte Nina nee Payne. During this period he graduated with sufficient law credits from the School of Pacific Administration to transfer to the Department of Law from 1970 to 1976 in various roles including resident magistrate, visiting justice and coroner, and district supervising magistrate in the Southern Highlands.

In 1976, after New Guinea independence, he returned to Australia to take up a position as the executive Officer and assistant secretary of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures before commencing farming at Bannockburn in 1980 and acting as registrar to the Church of England Diocese of Melbourne. A long-standing member of the Liberal Party he unsuccessfully contested the federal seat of Lalor in 1977 before winning the Victorian Legislative Assembly seat of South Barwon in 1982. He retained this seat until 1992. He also supported a variety of community organisations most notably as secretary of the Bannockburn branch of the Victorian Farmers and Graziers’ Association and as a founding member of the Pt Leo Surf Life Saving Club. For eight years he was a member of the Deakin University Council. In later life, Harley took up painting and proudly published a collection of his work; Windows of New Guinea 1958-1976 in 2005.

In 1987, a prize donated by Harley's mother, Dolina Marion Dickinson known as James and Dolina Arbuckle Memorial Prize was first awarded.
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