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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Maddocks, Sydney Aubrey (1881–1963)

by Michael Flynn

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Sydney Aubrey Maddocks (1881-1963), public servant, was born on 16 February 1881 at Surry Hills, Sydney, third child of Aubrey Sydney Maddocks, a native-born public servant, and his first wife Emily, née Dalley, who came from England. Educated at Fort Street Model School until the age of 14, Sydney worked in 'commercial life' before he joined the Colonial Secretary's Department on 20 May 1901. He rose quickly to correspondence clerk (1914) and chief clerk (1916) in the office of the inspector-general of police. At St Paul's Anglican Church, Rothbury, on 1 December 1915 he married Hilda Evelyn Campbell; they were to have a son and three daughters.

While secretary (from 1920) of the police department, Maddocks was appointed investigating officer (1928) for the Metropolitan Transport Services. He visited State capitals and New Zealand to inspect their public transport systems, and studied law at the University of Sydney (LL.B., 1930). On 4 June 1930 he was admitted to the Bar. He worked closely with Colonel (Sir) Michael Bruxner, the minister for local government, in preparing a bill based on their conviction that transport should be 'a public utility, not a source of private profit'. Maddocks was soon attacked by business interests for favouring an expanded public tramway system over private buses, but had strong political support from Bruxner. Between April and September 1929 Maddocks visited Europe and North America. His Report on Transport and Traffic Control Abroad was published in 1930. Under the Transport Act (1930), he was appointed commissioner of road transport, with control of the tramways and extensive powers to regulate the private bus system. His office was abolished in March 1932.

Following the Lang government's fall, Bruxner became minister for transport and, with Maddocks's help, drafted the Transport (Division of Functions) Act (1932) which created three departments headed by powerful commissioners. On 30 December 1932 Maddocks was gazetted commissioner for road transport and tramways, on a salary of £2500 per annum. One year later he claimed to have turned disastrous losses on the tramways into a profit, while investing in new rolling stock, reducing fares and retrenching debt. He had a lined but handsome face, thick dark hair, and the broad smile and dapper dress of a bon viveur. Fond of golf, tennis and surfing, he lived in Bower Street, Manly; he was also a talented violinist and producer of amateur theatricals.

Maddocks was a powerful figure surrounded by public controversy and private tensions. Early in 1937 he became involved in a dispute with elements of the police department over control of a road safety campaign at a time when he was also implementing changes to bus routes and services which threatened job losses. On the day the changes came into effect (1 March 1937) Maddocks was arrested in his car in secluded bushland at Northwood with an 18-year-old, unemployed houseboy named Mikiel John Adams, alias 'Peterson'. Both men were naked. Maddocks was charged with indecent assault and 'attempting to commit an unnatural offence'. He was suspended from the public service by the governor and later disbarred.

Although he denied the charges, Maddocks was convicted at the Sydney Quarter Sessions on 8 April 1937 and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment. Adams, who had made a prior arrangement with police to lay the trap, was not indicted. Maddocks's defence counsel W. J. Curtis described Adams as 'an effeminate degenerate' who had stolen personal items from Maddocks as part of a plan to blackmail him.

Onlookers in the public gallery wept as Maddocks sobbed frequently during his speech from the dock, in which he attributed his behaviour to stress, overwork and heavy drinking. In Sydney the case was a cause célèbre. The Daily Telegraph and the Bulletin were relatively sympathetic to Maddocks, but he was pilloried by Truth which condemned his sentence as too lenient and attacked Police Commissioner William MacKay for appearing as a character witness for his friend and colleague of twenty years standing.

After his release in May 1938, Maddocks eventually formed a partnership with his son in a shop at Manly. He died on 31 October 1963 at his home and was cremated; his wife and children survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Aitkin, The Colonel (Canb, 1969)
  • G. Wotherspoon, City of the Plain (Syd, 1991)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 16, 22 Dec 1927, 9 Apr, 21 June, 10, 16 Sept, 4, 5 Oct, 14 Nov 1929, 9, 28 Nov 1933, 9, 10 Apr, 13 Aug 1937
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 4 Apr 1932, 6 May 1938
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 3 Mar, 3, 7, 9-10, 12 Apr 1937
  • Truth (Sydney), 7, 21 Mar, 11, 18 Apr 1937
  • Bulletin, 10 Mar, 14 Apr 1937
  • S. A. Maddocks, staff card (State Transit Corporate and Resources Payroll Bureau, Sydney)
  • Chief Secretary's correspondence, 8/384, 4/7798-801, 5/8132 (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

Michael Flynn, 'Maddocks, Sydney Aubrey (1881–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 31 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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