Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Rodd, John Miller (1911–1976)

by Andrew J. Ray

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

John Miller Rodd (1911-1976), solicitor, company director and army officer, was born on 24 November 1911 at Camberwell, Melbourne, elder son of Victorian-born parents Edgar Alfred Rodd, bank manager, and his wife Alexandra, née Miller. John attended Scotch College and won a senior scholarship to the University of Melbourne where he began a law degree before completing (1932) the articled clerks' course. He had been articled to Sir Arthur Robinson in 1930 and was admitted to practise as a barrister and solicitor on 1 May 1935. His career in commercial law (specializing in the mining industry) and in serving the Law Institute of Victoria was to mirror that of Robinson.

In 1936 Rodd was commissioned lieutenant, Melbourne University Rifles, Militia. On 6 May 1940 he was appointed captain, Australian Imperial Force, and posted to the 2nd/14th Battalion. By December he was on the staff of the 7th Division in the Middle East. He undertook a course at the Tactical School and impressed the chief instructor with his 'clear brain', 'inquiring mind', 'strong bent for detail' and 'pleasant manner'. Mentioned in dispatches for his work in February-July 1941, he was promoted major in June 1942 and transferred to British General Headquarters, Middle East, as assistant Australian liaison officer. He was repatriated in February 1943. At Christ Church, South Yarra, on 3 March that year he married with Anglican rites Joan Patricia Berry, a 22-year-old draughtsman. In June-October 1943 he performed staff duties in Port Moresby. Returning to Australia, he was placed on the Reserve of Officers on 30 September 1944.

That year Rodd was made a partner in Arthur Robinson & Co. Recommended by Sir Arthur's nephew Lyell Robinson, he began in 1953 to act for the mining group, Rio Tinto Co. Ltd, London, which then had almost no Australian infrastructure. Initially, Rodd's office in Collins Street, Melbourne, was Rio Tinto's Australian base. He became closely involved in the company's Australian business, especially the complicated financing and floating of Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd (1955). In the judgement of the firm's historian, he was an 'indefatigable worker with an enormous capacity for detail . . . constantly on the alert for any breaches of law or ethics. His wide experience made him a most valuable member of the team'.

Rodd later played a major role in the formation of Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd. He helped this company to reach a complex agreement (1963) with the Western Australian government for prospecting and leasehold rights, to conclude difficult negotiations with Lang Hancock and Peter Wright for the acquisition of their iron-ore interests, and to formulate sales contracts with the Japanese. In these activities he worked closely with senior officers of the Rio Tinto Mining Co. of Australia Ltd and the Zinc Corporation Ltd, including Struan Anderson, Val Duncan and John Hohnen.

Acting for Rio Tinto involved Rodd in considerable travel, interstate and abroad. He visited Britain at least twice a year. His frequent trips to Mary Kathleen, Queensland, at first took up to three days each way. Roy Wright, vice-chairman of Rio Tinto, noted that he 'was no desk bound lawyer'. Rodd helped to arrange the merger (1962) of the Conzinc and Rio Tinto groups in Australia. With the increase in local staff, and the appointment of (Sir) Maurice Mawby as chairman of Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia Ltd, Rodd's involvement with the firm was reduced to that of director and legal adviser. He served on the boards of other public companies, and as honorary Swedish consul (1967) and consul-general (1971) in Melbourne.

A member (1945-67) and president (1952-53) of the council of the Law Institute of Victoria, Rodd sat on a number of its committees and represented the institute on various other bodies. He chaired the Law Institute's committees that advised (Sir) Arthur Rylah, the Victorian attorney-general, on the revision of company law which resulted in the Companies Acts of 1958 and 1961. Rodd was appointed C.B.E. in 1968. As the senior partner (from 1975) in Arthur Robinson & Co., he was the head of one of the few firms—all small—that handled most of Australia's work in commercial law. He died of cancer on 16 September 1976 in his holiday home at Anglesea and was buried in Springvale cemetery. His wife, daughter and son survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • R. H. Harding, Wholeheartedly and at Once (Melb, 1992)
  • Law Institute Journal, 27, 1953, p 264, 42, 1968, p 69, 50, 1976, p 462
  • R. Campbell, History of Arthur Robinson and Hedderwicks, and R. Wright, Reminiscences (both unpublished, held by Arthur Robinson and Hedderwicks, Melbourne)
  • Rio Tinto Ltd collection (University of Melbourne Archives)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Andrew J. Ray, 'Rodd, John Miller (1911–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/rodd-john-miller-11551/text20611, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 30 August 2014.

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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014