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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Robertson, Thomas Logan (1901–1969)

by Lesley Carman-Brown and Vicki Williamson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Thomas Logan Robertson (1901-1969), educationist, was born on 12 November 1901 at Balham, London, only son of Andrew Henry Fleming Robertson (d.1911), stockbroker, and his wife Margaret Jane, née Mundell. Contracting pulmonary tuberculosis, Andrew migrated with his family to Western Australia in 1905 and settled at Kalgoorlie. Thomas was educated locally, and at Perth Boys' and Perth Modern schools. In 1919 he joined the Education Department of Western Australia as a monitor and trained (1920-21) at Claremont Teachers' College. He taught at the East Claremont Practising School (1922-26) and at Geraldton, Busselton and Bridgetown, and studied part time at the University of Western Australia (B.A., 1924; M.A., 1936). On 3 May 1927 at St Giles's Presbyterian Church, Mount Lawley, he married Marion Gibson, a schoolteacher.

In 1938 'Blue' Robertson won a Carnegie fellowship and undertook research at the University of London (Ph.D., 1942) on junior county scholarship examinations. He returned home in 1939, completed his thesis while teaching in country schools, and was promoted to inspector at Northam in 1941. Mobilized in the Militia in May 1942 and commissioned in July, he served in the Australian Army Education Service (from March 1944 as a temporary major) until he was placed on the Retired List on 4 January 1945. After investigating (1945) the recruitment of teachers in Australia on behalf of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, he became assistant-director of the Commonwealth Office of Education in 1946.

On 1 February 1951 Robertson was appointed director of education in Western Australia. He reorganized and modernized the State's education department by using research and long-term planning to win political support for necessary changes. Prominent at interstate conferences, he helped in 1959 to prepare a statement addressing the needs of Australian education and took part in the political manoeuvring that accompanied the States' case for Commonwealth financial assistance to schools. A founding member (1959) of the Australian College of Education, he encouraged the study of educational administration. As a delegate (1961-64) to conferences of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, he was aware of the growing significance of the Indian Ocean region for Western Australia, both economically and culturally. He was also a driving-force behind the establishment of the Western Australian Institute of Technology in 1966.

Following his retirement that year, Robertson chaired the interim councils of W.A.I.T. (1967-69) and the Canberra College of Advanced Education (1966-68). He was president (1967) of the Australian Council for Educational Research and director of the national seminar on educational planning, held in Canberra in 1968. In 1969 he was appointed C.M.G.

Robertson's strong physical features and his height (almost six feet, 183 cm) gave him an appearance and demeanour that commanded respect. Survived by his wife, daughter and son, he died of a coronary occlusion on 29 August 1969 in his home at Nedlands, Perth, and was cremated. A bust executed by Theodore Hannan was unveiled on 15 September 1971 at the opening of the T. L. Robertson Library at W.A.I.T.

Select Bibliography

  • M. White, Thomas Logan Robertson, 1901-1969 (Perth, 1999), and for bibliography.

Citation details

Lesley Carman-Brown and Vicki Williamson, 'Robertson, Thomas Logan (1901–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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