Tributes have poured in for former Member for Ballarat South Frank Sheehan OAM who died on Wednesday at the age of 83.
As a politician, a Catholic advocate and a gentleman, Mr Sheehan is being remembered as a champion for those who were struggling or treated unjustly.
He represented the electorate for the ALP for 10 years from 1982 to 1992 but his success as an advocate in parliament belie his humble beginnings and doggedness.
Mr Sheehan was born in Dunnstown in 1937 to potato farmers Cornelius and Kathleen and attended school at St Brendan's Primary School and at St Paul's Technical College.
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He left school at 14 to join the family farming business before becoming a mechanic at 17.
From 1970 up until his 1982 election, Mr Sheehan taught motor trades at the Ballarat School of Mines and was an office bearer of the Technical Teachers Association of Victoria.
Mr Sheehan's political aspirations began when he first ran, unsuccessfully, as a Labor candidate for Ballarat South in 1973. He ran unsuccessfully again in both 1976 and 1979, the latter he lost by less than 200 votes.
Following his political career, Mr Sheehan was also an outspoken advocate for victims of historical sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, founding the Moving Towards Justice support group.
Mr Sheehan was also a gun footballer at Ballarat East, winning the club's best and fairest in 1961.
Upon being awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, Mr Sheehan told The Courier his proudest political achievement was being part of the creation of workplace laws.
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"I'd always been interested in the community and the possibility of politics being an area where you can help out people with their various needs and concerns," he said.
"I had many cases of people coming to me with work injuries... Worksafe and Workcover compensation never existed at the time and there was some legislation in the early days of the Cain government that addressed all those issues."
Member for Wendouree Juliana Addison paid tribute to Mr Sheehan.
"What is a really good go-to point is politicians' first speeches because it really talks about why they wanted to run and in that first speech, he really wanted to help the unemployed and the people who were struggling in Ballarat. I think that really speaks in volumes about his values and the kind of man that he was," she said.
"When he talked about some of his proudest achievements, he talked about being in the parliament when they introduced WorkCover and workers compensation laws because he really worked closely with a lot of people in Ballarat who had been injured at work and during his time in parliament, we introduced the WorkCover system to protect injured workers and he was very proud of that.
"To be to be a Catholic and really speak out about the Catholic Church as a former MP was just incredible leadership that he showed, compassion and leadership to right a wrong. What an incredible legacy to leave.
"Frank was highly respected as a kind and good man who cared about people. I offer my deepest sympathies to his wife Rosalie, their children Jane, Michael, Roseanne and Katrina and grandchildren."
Member for Buninyong Michaela Settle said Mr Sheehan was a mentor to Labor candidates and members.
"He lead with his values and his commitment to the people of Ballarat," she said.
"I spoke with Geoff Howard who won the seat of Ballarat East in 1996 and he described Frank as his political mentor; a great listener and a genuine advocate.
"Frank continued to mentor Labor candidates and members throughout his life and I was privileged to share his wise counsel.
"Frank spent more than a decade in the public eye as a Labor MP, but his service to the community ran deeper than that.
"I offer my deepest condolences to his wife Rosalie and four children Jane, Michael, Roseanne and Katrina."
Former Member for Ballarat West Paul Jenkins said despite their political differences, he and Mr Sheehan got on well.
"He was a good member of parliament and represented the Ballarat South electorate very well," he said.
"He was also a great community man over many years, running around Dunnstown, a great footballer in his day and was highly respected by the community.
"My sympathies to his family. I'm sure he'll be missed by the Dunnstown community."
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