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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Peres, Leon George (1928–1984)

by John Power

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

Leon George Peres (1928-1984), political scientist and public servant, was born on 17 July 1928 in Melbourne, younger son of Greek-born Nicholas Peres, confectionery manufacturer, and his wife Agnes Jean, née Crosbie, who was born in Victoria.  The family moved to Sydney when Leon was a baby.  He attended Kogarah Boys’ Public and Sydney Technical High schools and then learned accountancy.  From 1946 he was employed as a clerk with the National Standards Laboratory, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization).  He studied economics part time at the University of Sydney (B.Ec., 1951).  In 1951-52 he was the general laboratory secretary for the CSIRO division of biochemistry and general nutrition, Adelaide, and in 1953-57 was the accountant with the divisions of entomology and plant industry in Canberra.  On 12 January 1957 at the registrar’s office, Canberra, he married Marie Elizabeth Hipwell.  Transferring to CSIRO head office in Melbourne, he was staff relations officer (1957-62) and officer for international co-operation (1962-66).

In 1962 Peres gained a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University, United States of America.  Taking up a senior lectureship in public administration at the University of Melbourne in 1966, he was promoted to reader in 1972.  He wrote articles on topics relating to public policy, the bureaucracy and the increasing complexity of government.  While he did not publish much, what he did produce was of the highest quality.  In 1971 R. N. Spann wrote that Peres’s paper 'The Resurrection of Autonomy: Organization Theory and the Statutory Corporation', in Public Administration (December 1968), had 'the makings of a first-class book on the statutory corporation and its place in government, much better than anything yet written by any American or Englishman'.

One of the earliest contributors to the literature on Australian science policy, Peres argued in 'Principle or Interest? Changing Roles Within Government', in Melbourne Journal of Politics (no 3, 1970), that parliaments were 'incapable of tackling sophisticated technological problems' and that 'political conflicts no longer revolve around property and class, but around the interests of scientists, professionals, administrators and politicians'.  According to Sol Encel, Peres showed that 'scientific activity had grown without the benefit of broad national policies' and predicted that 'this was likely to change as a result of concern about natural resources, energy production and use, environmental issues and health problems'.

Peres held a number of positions concerned with science policy, most notably as a member (1977-84) of the Australian Science and Technology Council.  Active in the Royal (Australian) Institute of Public Administration, Victorian regional group, he served as president in 1977-79 and was named a national fellow in 1984.  Survived by his wife and their daughter, he died of Hodgkin’s disease on 21 September 1984 at Ivanhoe, Melbourne, and was buried with Anglican rites in Fawkner cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • N. Peres, A Life in Focus (2010)
  • CSIRO, Annual Report, 1951-66
  • Peres staff file (University of Melbourne archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

John Power, 'Peres, Leon George (1928–1984)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 22 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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