Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Berg, Charles Josef (1917–1988)

by Kenneth W. Tribe

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Charles Josef Berg (1917-1988), accountant and music administrator, was born on 28 March 1917 in Berlin, Germany, son of Jewish parents Richard Max Berg, merchant, and his wife Rosina, née Blaauw. His father, who had a senior training position in an opera company, died when Charles was 13. Educated at a gymnasium (secondary school), Charles also studied piano and violin. Following the family decision to leave Germany in 1936, Berg spent a year in England, where he worked as a commercial clerk. After arriving in Melbourne in 1937 he moved to Sydney and found employment as a clerk in 1938. On 23 January 1943 at the district registrar’s office, Paddington, he married Greta Ladenheim, a typist; they were later divorced. He was naturalised in 1944.

While studying accountancy Berg worked for Murray Bros Pty Ltd, furniture manufacturers, from 1939. In 1940-41 he was admitted as an associate member of the Association of Accountants of Australia (from 1953 the Australian Society of Accountants). After the war he began private practice in the city, and later formed the company Charles J. Berg & Associates (from 1972, Charles J. Berg & Partners). The firm, which had a high reputation in formal accounting, audit and taxation, undertook work for many immigrant clients. A member of the Australian branch of the International Fiscal Association from 1957, Berg served as secretary of the Australian branch and a member of the general council and of the permanent scientific committee of the central organisation. He was later Australian representative of the Union Bank of Switzerland. In 1979-80 differences arising out of matters concerning this bank, between himself and his partners, Colin Borough and Robert Strauss, resulted in the dissolution of the partnership. He then operated his own private practice (1980-86), becoming a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia in 1981.

Berg was also a director of various companies including Brown Boveri (Australia) Pty Ltd, Leighton Holdings Ltd and Zurich Australian Insurance Ltd. While a member of the council of the Association of New Citizens he had written a column on taxation for their publication The New Citizen in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He married 31-year-old Vera Spitz, née Matejv, a shop assistant and divorcee, on 3 October 1964; they were later divorced. On 15 March 1972 he married 31-year-old Robyn Annette Hains, née Spargo, a secretary and divorcee. Both marriages took place at the registrar general’s office, Sydney.

Always interested in music, Berg joined the committee of the Musica Viva Society of Australia and later was appointed secretary (1954-68) and president (1968-74). He brought to Musica Viva the disciplines of sound administration and financial responsibility and also his deep love of chamber music. As a member of the board of the Australian Opera from 1969 he was more prominent, especially as chairman (1974-86). His zealous pursuit of sponsorships assisted the Australian Opera to maintain its operations and his acquisition of premises for the company at Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills, increased its efficiency. He incurred criticism from the artists in 1985 when he announced that the company would have to become a part-time operation from 1987. Although the crisis was resolved by a rescue package from Federal and State governments in January 1986, amid further complaints by the company’s singers, Berg resigned in February. He was made a life member of both the Musica Viva Society of Australia and the Australian Opera. His voluntary work also involved Jewish organisations: he was president (1976-86) of the board of Shalom College, University of New South Wales, governor of the Jewish Communal Appeal, auditor of Temple Emanuel, Woollahra, and life governor (1959) of the Sir Moses Montefiore Jewish Home, Hunters Hill.

Berg was an intense man, never finding it easy to relax. Although conservative by nature with a pessimistic strand in his make-up, once he settled on a course he acted with certainty—`there is no question about it’ was a common statement. He was appointed OBE in 1972, awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1973 and appointed AM in 1986. Following a heart attack which caused brain damage in 1986, he died of myocardial infarction on 6 February 1988 at his home at Point Piper and was buried in the Northern Suburbs Jewish cemetery, North Ryde. His wife and his son and daughter from his first marriage survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Shmith and D. Colville (eds), Musica Viva Australia (1996)
  • Musica Viva, Annual Report, 1988
  • Bulletin, May 1988, p 1
  • Australian, 25-26 May 1979, `Weekend Magazine’, p 6, 11 Jan 1984, p 8
  • Age (Melbourne), 8 Feb 1988, p 14
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Kenneth W. Tribe, 'Berg, Charles Josef (1917–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/berg-charles-josef-12199/text21873, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 21 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2017