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Arthur Robert (Mick) Driver (1909–1981)

by Paul A. Rosenzweig

This article was published:

Arthur Robert (Mick) Driver (1909-1981), civil engineer, administrator and immigration official, was born on 25 November 1909 at Albany, Western Australia, youngest of five surviving children of Australian-born parents Henry Driver, packer, and his wife Mary Ann, née Hicken. Educated at the High School, Perth, and at the University of Western Australia, `Mick’ entered the Western Australian Public Works Department in 1928 as an engineering cadet. He was appointed engineer on the permanent staff in 1937. On 8 August 1936 at St Mary’s Church of England, West Perth, he had married Hazel Freda Kelly.

Called up for full-time duty as a lieutenant, Royal Australian Engineers, Militia, on 16 October 1940, Driver transferred to the Australian Imperial Force on 10 April 1941. He was 6 ft 2 ins (188 cm) tall, with blue eyes and auburn hair. Posted to the 2/4th Pioneer Battalion, he served in the Northern Territory and underwent staff training. In March 1943 he was promoted to temporary captain. As brigade major of the 23rd Brigade from September, he was sent to Papua and New Guinea, and then to Bougainville. He was promoted to temporary major in February 1944. In September 1945 he was made general staff officer, 2nd grade (operations), at Advanced Land Headquarters, Morotai, Netherlands East Indies. He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 5 December.

Driver returned briefly to the Public Works Department and in 1946 became an associate-member of the Institution of Engineers, Australia. On 1 July that year he succeeded Charles Abbott as administrator of the Northern Territory, becoming the fifth to administer the Territory on behalf of the Commonwealth government. In 1947 the Legislative Council was created to manage Territory affairs locally; next year Driver was named its first president. The council comprised seven appointed members (senior public servants) and six elected members, thereby maintaining Federal hegemony. Driver participated vigorously in council proceedings and debate.

Presiding over the postwar reconstruction of Darwin, Driver supervised the conversion of freehold land titles to leasehold. He reorganised the administration and police force, developed stock routes to open up pastoral lands, promoted agriculture and mining, expanded education facilities, including the School of the Air, and ensured that these aspects of the Territory were widely publicised throughout Australia to attract new residents. On 18 October 1949 (ten days after he was divorced), at St Leonard’s Presbyterian Church, Brighton Beach, Melbourne, Driver married Marjorie (`Mardi’) Campbell, née Leighton, a secretary who had previously changed her surname to Driver by deed poll.

Frustrated at the slow rate of progress, Driver resigned as administrator with effect from 30 June 1951. He joined the Commonwealth Department of Immigration and served as chief migration officer in Italy (1951-54) and in Central-Northern Europe (1954-55). In 1956-61 he was chief of the department of operations, Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration, Geneva. On returning to Australia, he briefly resumed engineering work in Melbourne and became director of the resources development branch of the Victorian Employers’ Federation (1963-70).

Driver moved to Buderim, Queensland, and from 1970 was managing director of Communicator Public Relations (Queensland) Pty Ltd and Mirrabooka Rural Resources Pty Ltd. His recreations included tennis, squash and golf. Survived by his wife and their daughter, and by the son and daughter of his first marriage, he died on 18 May 1981 at Buderim and was cremated. A suburb of Palmerston, Northern Territory, was named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • P. F. Donovan, At the Other End of Australia (1984)
  • D. Carment and B. James (eds), Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography, vol 2 (1992)
  • P. A. Rosenzweig, The House of Seven Gables (1996)
  • E. Gibson, Bag-huts, Bombs and Bureaucrats (1997)
  • series A2065, item A R Driver (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Paul A. Rosenzweig, 'Driver, Arthur Robert (Mick) (1909–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 17 June 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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