First National co-founder passes away

Prominent real estate identity Charles Heath has been hailed for his drive and vision after he passed away on Monday.

Mr Heath, who co-founded First National Real Estate, passed away in Bairnsdale, Victoria, at the age of 80.

Since Mr Heath and Bill Wood founded the cooperative in 1981, it has grown to 400 offices throughout Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Long-time friend Chris Martin told REB that the reason Mr Heath co-founded First National was to provide an alternative to the franchises.

“It was due to the need to provide a referral network for independent real estate agents for clients shifting to other areas, and a platform for agents to discuss mutual problems and benefits,” he said.

Mr Martin said Mr Heath was a man of integrity who helped establish First National’s values-based culture.

“He was a great person. He was a very good mentor. He always had time to sit and talk to the staff and also the others that were involved in the partnership in the business,” he said.

Mr Martin is the principal of Bairnsdale agency First National King & Heath, which was founded by Mr Heath’s father in 1923 and which was run by Mr Heath from 1957 to 1999.

Mr Martin described Mr Heath as a man of drive and vision, who played a major role in several major development projects in Gippsland and East Gippsland.

“His drive was one of his big things – in fact, it was probably his main thing. He was very driven by development,” he said.

“He could look at land and greenfield sites and he could visualise in his own mind how the end product would be, and then it was a case of making it happen from there.”

Mr Martin had known Mr Heath and his late wife, Kaye, since he was a child. He said Kaye was “an absolute rock” who provided valuable support in establishing First National. The group’s highest individual award is known as the Kaye Heath Memorial Award.

Mr Heath was a First National board member from 1981 to 1994 and served as chairman from 1984 to 1985.

The current chairman, David Nitschke, said Mr Heath was a major proponent of change and remained interested in First National’s progress even after he left the organisation.

Chief executive Ray Ellis said he was able to benefit from Mr Heath’s experience and foresight on many occasions.

“Chas’s attendance at the network’s 30th anniversary celebrations in 2012 was a highlight of the year for many of our members. They saw first-hand Chas’s unwavering passion for our network and its ongoing success,” he said.

Mr Heath was inducted into Order of Australia in 2013 for his dedication and commitment to excellence in Australian real estate.

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