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Sir Douglas Were Fraser (1899–1988)

by Kenneth Wiltshire

This article was published:

Sir Douglas Were Fraser (1899-1988), public servant, was born on 24 October 1899 at Gympie, Queensland, eldest of three sons of Robert John Fraser, a Queensland-born clerk, and his wife Edith Harriet, née Shepherd, from New South Wales. Educated at Gympie State High School, in 1916 Douglas joined the Queensland Public Service Board in Brisbane as a junior clerk. In 1920 he transferred to the office of the newly appointed public service commissioner, John Douglas Story. He studied accountancy with the Federal Institute of Accountants and gained a certificate in accountancy from the University of Queensland. On 1 September 1927 at Albert Street Methodist Church he married Violet Pryke (d.1968), a public servant.

Influenced by Story’s manner and style as an administrator, community leader and educator, Fraser became acting assistant-secretary to the public service commissioner in 1936 and secretary three years later. During World War II he took on the added roles of assistant-director of civil defence and secretary to the public safety advisory committee. He was promoted to senior public service inspector in 1947 and to deputy public service commissioner in 1952, and was appointed public service commissioner in 1956. When the Liberal-Country Party coalition came to power in 1957 after a long period of Labor government, he kept his position as titular head of the public service, testimony to his bipartisan support and apolitical stance. He served as an electoral commissioner in 1949-72 (chairman from 1959), and was a member of the University of Queensland senate in 1957-74. A fellow of the Australian Institute of Management, the (Royal) Australian Institute of Public Administration (Queensland group), the Australian Society of Accountants and the Institute of Civil Defence, he was appointed ISO in 1962. He retired from the public service in December 1965 and was knighted next year.

President (1967-80) of the Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade State council, Fraser visited the majority of branches and convened conferences, building the morale of the officers and their families. He emphasised the importance of training and oversaw establishment of a sound superannuation scheme. The Institute of Ambulance Officers made him an honorary fellow. In 1980 he was a member of the committee of review on ambulance services in Queensland, whose report resulted in a more efficient and centralised structure.

Fraser was a devotee of classical music. Vice-chairman (1955-71) and chairman (1971-79) of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music advisory council, he was made an honorary fellow in 1979. He was also chairman (1971-81) of the Queensland Light Opera Company. Interested in local history, he contributed articles on early settlement to the Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland and presented papers to the Redcliffe Historical Society, of which he was patron from 1968. He wrote a seminal monograph, The Public Service of Queensland, 1859-1959 (1981), and co-authored Administrative History in Queensland (1986), both published by the RAIPA. Former colleagues recalled him as a thorough gentleman, who always remembered names. His life was dedicated to public service. Survived by his three sons, Sir Douglas died on 2 January 1988 at Redcliffe and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Lack (compiler), Three Decades of Queensland Political History 1929-1960 (1962)
  • Professional Officer, Dec 1965, p 1
  • Redcliffe Herald, 18 Mar 1981, p 32
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 6 Jan 1988, p 2.

Citation details

Kenneth Wiltshire, 'Fraser, Sir Douglas Were (1899–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 23 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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