Bill Robbins (1954-2009)

By Voll, Gerry; Saw, John | Labour History - A Journal of Labour and Social History, May 2010 | Go to article overview

Bill Robbins (1954-2009)


Voll, Gerry, Saw, John, Labour History - A Journal of Labour and Social History


Dr William (Bill) Robbins died on Christmas Eve 2009 at his home with his family, his wife Karen and daughters Zoe, Madelaine and Odette, by his side. He had been battling a series of minor illnesses which suddenly became fatal, with the end coming rather quickly.

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Bill was born in Scotland in 1954, but emigrated with his family at a young age and lived most of his younger years in Melbourne where he was educated. He obtained his Economics degree from Monash University and went on to do his Masters there. From an early age, Bill had shown a keen interest in history and this was reflected in his Masters thesis which dealt with the Wages Boards of the Victorian railways. Bill's other love was politics and therefore it was not surprising that labour history later became his preferred topic of research.

After graduating from Monash University, Bill worked for some time with the Bank Employees Union in Melbourne but his scholarly reputation and his work in the union movement became known beyond Melbourne. In 1984 a future colleague of Bill's took a special trip from Albury to Melbourne to persuade Bill to come to Albury as a lecturer in Industrial Relations at that city's relatively new campus of the Riverina College of Advanced Education (a forerunner of Charles Sturt University). This institution had one of first courses in Industrial Relations by Distance Education in Australia. The course began at the undergraduate level but the recruitment of Bill, with his experience and expertise, facilitated the establishment of postgraduate courses which encompassed a Graduate Certificate, a Graduate Diploma and a Masters--all by Distance education which made them unique in Australia. The success of these courses over the next 25 years was testament to Bill's enthusiasm for learning and his academic prowess. Many past students who went on to become IR and HRM practitioners owe their success in part to Bill's effective teaching. Another outstanding part of these courses was a one-week residential course offered twice a year which dealt with the practical skills of negotiation and advocacy using initially, practising Commissioners, from either the Australian Industrial Relations Commission or the NSW Commission. This residential school was so successful that Bill (along with a colleague) produced a 30-minute training video titled Advocacy: On Your Feet in the Commission which was sold to students, universities, employer associations and even the various Commissions.

Throughout his career at Charles Sturt University, Bill taught Industrial Relations, Human Resource Management and Management subjects both face to face and by Distance Education at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level. This enabled him to pursue his love of labour history which he managed to intertwine into the subject matter of most of his subjects. During his early years at Charles Sturt University, Bill wrote a book on family businesses which combined his research into labour history, history and management. …

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