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Thomas James (Tom) Brack (1924–1984)

by Frank Bongiorno

This article was published:

Thomas James (Tom) Brack (1924-1984), conciliation and arbitration commissioner, was born on 16 September 1924 at Warburton, Victoria, second son of James Brack, land salesman, and his wife Frances Lillian, née Downey, both Victorian born. The family moved to the new national capital and Tom was educated at Canberra High School, where he passed the Intermediate certificate in 1939. Overstating his age he commenced full-time duty in the Militia on 15 July 1942. Five ft 8½ ins (174 cm) tall and solidly built, he had blue eyes, light brown hair and a fair complexion. He transferred to the Australian Imperial Force on 28 April 1943 and served as a cipher clerk in Australia, New Guinea and, for a few months after the war, on Morotai, Netherlands East Indies. Having risen to sergeant in December 1944, he was promoted to acting staff sergeant in November 1945. However, in January that year he had been described by a superior officer as `a poor example’ of a non-commissioned officer, one who had `ability’ but adopted `an attitude of absolute disinterest’ in the army.

At All Saints Church of England, St Kilda, Melbourne, on 10 July 1945 Brack married Elizabeth Eva Archer, a private in the Australian Women’s Army Service. Demobilised from the army on 12 June 1946, he returned to Canberra and joined the Commonwealth Public Service in November as a clerk in the Department of External Affairs. In 1948 he transferred to the Department of the Interior, with which he served in Darwin for a time, and from 1950 he worked in the industrial and arbitration branch of the office of the Public Service Board, Prime Minister’s Department. He rose steadily through the ranks before resigning from the public service in 1951 to become secretary of the Australian Capital Territory Employers’ Association and the Canberra Chamber of Commerce. In 1954 he left these positions and moved to Sydney, where he worked as an industrial officer and personnel manager for the Nestlé Co. (Australia) Ltd. He was federal president (1963-67) of the Commonwealth Jam Preserving and Condiment Manufacturers’ Association.

On 2 September 1968 Brack was appointed a commissioner of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. With long experience of industrial affairs in both the private and public sectors, he was well equipped for his new role, to which he adapted readily. He acquired a reputation at the commission for courtesy, efficiency and fairness, and for his ability to listen carefully to evidence and ask penetrating questions of witnesses. He enjoyed the respect of colleagues, employers and unions.

Brack was a horse-racing enthusiast and a keen lawn bowler. After his first marriage ended in divorce, he married Norma Gwen McKelvey, née Green, a divorcee, in a civil ceremony on 2 March 1980 at Baulkham Hills. Survived by his wife, and by the daughter and son of his first marriage, he died of a brain tumour on 7 June 1984 at Westmead and was cremated.

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  • series B883, item NX170457 (National Archives of Australia)
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Citation details

Frank Bongiorno, 'Brack, Thomas James (Tom) (1924–1984)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 27 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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