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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Morley, Ian Webster (1904–1989)

by Ruth S. Kerr

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

Ian Webster Morley (1904-1989), mining engineer, was born on 20 March 1904 at Kew, Melbourne, only child of William Morley, an English-born Methodist minister, and his second wife Grace Webster, née Henderson, from New Zealand. Ian was educated at Trinity and Wesley colleges and at the University of Melbourne (B.Met.E., 1928; BME, 1929), where he studied metallurgical and mining engineering. He was an assistant surveyor (1927-28) with Broken Hill South Ltd and a field-assistant (1929-30) on the Imperial Geophysical Experimental Survey. In the Mandated Territory of New Guinea in 1931-34, he wrote with Harold Taylour an extensive report on the development of gold-mining at Morobe (published in 1933 in the Proceedings of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy). In 1934-35, as acting superintendent at Mount Coolon Gold Mines NL, in central Queensland, he was faced with a dispute over wages and conditions that resulted in a strike by truckers, whose actions anticipated a six-month mine shut-down owing to drought.

General manager of Georgetown Gold Mines NL, North Queensland (1935-36), and of Mount Kasi Mines Ltd, Fiji (1936), Morley was made in 1937 mine foreman at Wiluna Gold Mines Ltd, Western Australia. On 26 June that year he married with Methodist forms Evelyn Mary Marshall, a schoolteacher, at her parents’ Kalgoorlie home. After serving as inspector of mines at Kalgoorlie in 1938-39, he was appointed assistant State mining engineer in Queensland in 1939 and State mining engineer and chief inspector of mines in December 1940. He promoted Queensland mining during its expansion from 1950, leading policy formulation for emerging oil and natural gas developments and for bauxite, uranium, mineral sands and large open-cut coalmines. Following an overseas study trip to North America in 1966, he recommended computerisation of drilling data, a grid system for exploration tenures, petroleum legislation reform and the establishment of a State energy board.

In 1945 Morley had chaired the first conference of chief inspectors of mines; he later helped to produce a uniform code of safe mining practices. With Julius Kruttschnitt, Malcolm Newman and others, in 1949 he advised the University of Queensland on establishing a department of mining engineering. In 1967-71 he was a member of the International Labour Office’s panel of consultants on safety in mines. Active in the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, he had helped to found the Morobe branch in 1932, served (1949-52, 1969-74) on the national council, and become an honorary member (fellow) in 1982.

Widowed in 1948, on 3 November 1950 at Scots Presbyterian Church, Clayfield, Brisbane, Morley had married Janet Emily Innes (d.1975), a company manageress. After retiring from the posts of State mining engineer and chief inspector of mines in 1969 he established a successful mining and petroleum consultancy. That year he was awarded the Imperial Service Order. He wrote Black Sands: A History of the Mineral Sand Mining Industry in Eastern Australia (1981). Tall, straight, silver-haired and bespectacled, he was renowned for his wise and firm counsel, and for his spidery handwriting on departmental correspondence. He died on 11 September 1989 at Corinda and was cremated; the son and daughter of his first marriage survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Queensland Government Mining Journal, 15 Jan 1941, p 21, Mar 1969, p 79, June 1969, p 235, Oct 1989, p 436
  • Proceedings (Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy), Dec 1982, p 9
  • Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy Bulletin, Mar 1990, p 39
  • Lectures on North Queensland History, no 5, 1996, p 36
  • Morley papers (University of Queensland Library)
  • personal knowledge.

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Citation details

Ruth S. Kerr, 'Morley, Ian Webster (1904–1989)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 23 October 2020.

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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