Hedley Beare was the only person to establish two education systems in Australia. He was appointed the first head of education departments in the Northern Territory and the ACT, which meant he led the creation of Australia’s seventh and eighth education systems.
He wrote, co-wrote or edited 18 books, mostly on schooling, teaching and curricula of the future, and contributed 40 book chapters and hundreds of articles in a wide variety of journals. He was strongly committed to the Christian faith, reading widely on church history, and for 15 years writing columns for The Melbourne Anglican.
Hedley was born on November 28, 1932, in Barmera, South Australia, the son of Frederick and Amy Beare. He went to Unley High School in Adelaide and was the top student in the state in the university entrance examinations. He completed a BA at Adelaide University with a major in Latin, then spent 10 years teaching English, mathematics and Latin at secondary schools. Hedley completed a master’s degree in education at Melbourne University in 1965 and later won a Harkness Fellowship. He had married Lyn Foreman in 1956, and the family relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where in 1970 he completed a doctorate of education at Harvard.
Back in Australia, Hedley was appointed by South Australia as the Regional Director of Education in the Northern Territory. In 1972 the Northern Territory established its own education system and Hedley was appointed as the foundation Director. He was also appointed a member of the NT Legislative Assembly. Under his leadership there was pioneering work with indigenous education, and with remote schooling, as well as with the early stages of what is now Charles Darwin University.
Hedley and his family were in Darwin when cyclone Tracy struck in 1974. As part of the taskforce, he was put in charge of managing the civilian evacuation, moving 28,000 people in eight days from schools and damaged homes where they were sheltering. He had already been selected as the first Chief Education Officer of the newly-created ACT Schools Authority, a position he took up early in 1975. He led innovations in teacher and school management, curriculum and assessment, and system accountability. In 1978-79 he returned to the US as a Fulbright senior scholar.
From 1981 to 1995 Hedley was a professor of education at Melbourne University, a position he held with distinction. He was also elected a fellow of the Australian College of Educators and the Australian Council for Educational Leaders. He is a Member of the Order of Australia, and was awarded life membership of the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement. Eight days before his death in 2010 Melbourne University conferred on him an honorary doctorate of education.