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Loveday, Ronald Redvers (1900–1987)

by Jenny Tilby Stock

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Ronald Redvers Loveday (1900-1987), politician, was born on 10 March 1900 at Chelmsford, Essex, England, elder son of Frank Arthur Loveday, jeweller’s manager, and his first wife Alice Esther, née Lake.  Raised in a strict Congregational family, Ron was educated at the local elementary school and, on a scholarship, at King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford.  After his mother’s death by suicide in 1912 he boarded at the school.  He worked briefly as a civil servant before joining the Royal Naval Air Service in March 1918 as a probationary flight and observer officer.  Demobilised in March 1919, he migrated to South Australia in October and took employment on William Mills’s property, Millbrae, in the Adelaide Hills.  In 1922 he acquired a 15-acre (6 ha) horticultural block at Renmark and became engaged to Mills’s youngest child, Lizzie Hilliary (Liza), sister of May Mills.  They were married at Chalmers Presbyterian Church, Adelaide, on 27 August 1924.

The farm proved unviable, and in 1926-28 Loveday carried out contract haulage work, mainly at Clare.  Taking up a soldier settler block on marginal land at Cungena, near Streaky Bay, he and his growing family lived in a rudimentary iron and timber dwelling.  He cleared some 1400 acres (566 ha) of mallee scrub and sowed wheat.  Struggling with drought and depressed grain prices, he became president of the local branch of the South Australian Wheat Growers’ Protection Association and secretary of its Eyre Peninsula section.  In 1933 he campaigned energetically against the operation of the Farmers’ Assistance Board.  He was elected State president of the WGPA for 1935.

The Lovedays moved in February 1936 to the much better land and climate of Kernilla, a property ten miles (16 km) from Port Lincoln.  Liza ran the farm while Ron took off-farm labouring jobs, worked as a fitter and turner and joined the Amalgamated Engineering Union.  In 1938 he gained secure employment with the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd at Whyalla, and the family joined him there a year later.  He served as secretary (1940-56) of the local AEU and helped to form a branch of the Australian Labor Party at Whyalla.  Active in local politics, he sat on several wartime committees and was a founding member (1945-65) of the Whyalla Town Commission.  He was an ALP candidate for the Legislative Council Northern electorate in the 1947 and 1950 elections and in a 1949 by-election.  When the electoral redistribution of 1955 gave Whyalla its own House of Assembly seat, he secured the Labor nomination and won it at the election next year.  As a back-bencher he advocated better educational opportunities for young people in rural areas, and helped to persuade BHP to establish a steelworks at Whyalla, which was opened in 1965.

The Labor Party, led by Frank Walsh, won office in March 1965, and Loveday was appointed to the education portfolio.  Having helped shape ALP policy for a second university, as minister he introduced on 26 January 1966 the bill that gave the new Flinders University of South Australia its independence from the University of Adelaide.  He was responsible for overhauling the grading system for Intermediate and Leaving certificate examinations (1966) and for abolishing the externally examined Intermediate (1968).  The binary divide between the single-sex technical schools and the more academic high schools ended.  A staged process towards pay equity for women teachers, 'accouchement leave' and other means of reducing discrimination were begun.  Loveday approved a pioneering experiment in which Pitjantjatjara children received their first formal schooling in their own language.  However, his inept handling in 1966-67 of the (John) Murrie case—involving a Darwin primary-school headmaster who publicly complained about the lack of experienced teachers at his school—angered the previously non-political South Australian Institute of Teachers, led to an inconclusive royal commission, and marked the start of a new militancy in the teaching profession.

When Donald Dunstan replaced Walsh as premier in June 1967, Loveday took on the additional portfolio of Aboriginal affairs.  As a democratic socialist, with a strong humanitarian bent, he was more liberal than many men of his age on emerging social issues; in 1968 he supported the case for abortion law reform.  That year the Labor Party lost office, and Loveday retired from parliament at the 1970 election.  The new Dunstan government appointed him chairman of the Wheat Delivery Quotas Inquiry Committee and a member of various other boards and committees, including the South Australian Railways advisory committee and the Citrus Organization Committee of South Australia (1973-76).  For ten years he was on the Electricity Trust of South Australia’s electricity reticulation advisory committee, chairing it in 1975-80.  In 1971-75 he was a member of the Municipal Tramways Trust.

The Lovedays had moved to Adelaide in 1965, first to Glenelg, and later to a house they had built at Bellevue Heights, on land owned by the Mills family.  In retirement Loveday enjoyed lawn bowls, music, travel, photography and theatre.  Survived by his wife and their four sons and three daughters, he died on 17 January 1987 at Glenelg and was cremated.  Dunstan described him as a man of admirable 'intellect, integrity and forthrightness'.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Hetherington, The Making of a Labor Politician, 1982
  • S. Cockburn, The Patriarchs, 1983
  • A. Vicary, In the Interests of Education, 1997
  • E. Jolly (ed), A Broader Vision, 2001
  • Australian, 'Weekend Mag', 1 January 1983, p 16

Citation details

Jenny Tilby Stock, 'Loveday, Ronald Redvers (1900–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/loveday-ronald-redvers-14351/text25423, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 26 April 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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