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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Luke, Ronald Stark (Ron) (1907–1989)

by Lisa Murray

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Ronald Stark Luke  (1907-1989), businessman and alderman, was born on 15 March 1907 at Wellington, New Zealand, son of New Zealand-born John Pearce Luke, engineer, and his English wife Jane Sewell, née Stark.  Ron was educated at Kilbirnie School, New Zealand, and then at King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford, when the family lived in England.  Back in New Zealand he joined the family business, Luke & Sons Engineering, and studied for his accountancy degree, before working for Colonial Motors.  On 26 March 1932 at All Saints’ Church, Kilbirnie, he married with Anglican rites Vera Summerhayes Tolan.

In 1934 Luke joined the Irish Linen Spinning and Weaving Co. Pty Ltd.  Next year he was appointed general manager of the Australian branch, and he migrated to Australia with his wife.  He became a director and stayed with the company in Sydney until 1977.

Luke was an alderman (1944-72) and mayor (1947-49) on Mosman Municipal Council.  He concurrently served one term (1959-62) on Sydney City Council and led (1959-61) the Civic Reform Association of Sydney.  His election in 1947 to the executive of the Local Government Association of New South Wales signalled a more active role in government administration and planning issues.  As president (1955-57) and treasurer (1959-67, 1969-71) of the association, he opposed the amalgamation of municipal governments and the abolition of the New South Wales Legislative Council.  He represented the State as an executive member (1955-67) on the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, also serving as president (1958-59, 1963-64).  He advocated increased financial resources for local government from its Federal and State counterparts, particularly for implementing major capital projects, essential community services and road construction.

As chairman (1951-57; councillor, 1950-64) of the Cumberland County Council, Luke was responsible for implementing the Cumberland plan and its green belt around metropolitan Sydney.  Delayed implementation, the release of land within the green belt for development, and a lack of co-operation from government departments and authorities were a source of frustration for Luke.  Nevertheless he continued to provide input as the local government member (1964-72) of the State Planning Authority of New South Wales, following the CCC’s demise.

In 1965 the government of (Sir) Robert Askin appointed Luke to the royal commission into rating, valuation and local government finance.  Both government and Opposition rejected the commission’s recommendations for increased and additional taxation.  His other official appointments included membership of the Town and Country Planning Advisory Committee (1953-59), the Local Government Town and Country Planning Examination Committee (1953-74), the Geographical Names Board of New South Wales (1966-67), the Local Government Superannuation Board (1969-72) and the Metropolitan Waste Disposal Authority (1971-72).

Luke wrote A Cuckoo in the Mayor’s Nest (1961), a satirical guide to the rules and functions of councils that revealed a more mischievous side to the powerful personality of an energetic, principled and deeply respected man.  He was appointed OBE in 1962.  In 1985 continuing ill health forced him to retire from the post of trustee (nominated 1957) of the A. R. Bluett Memorial Trust and general editor (from 1955) of the Shire & Municipal Record.

Passionate about basketball, both as a player and a referee, Luke lobbied for better facilities.  In the Amateur Basketball Association of New South Wales he served as treasurer (1939-48), vice-president (1949) and president (1959-60).  In 1964 he became a life member.  He died on 15 March 1989 at Manly and was cremated.  A daughter (d.1952) and his wife (d.1973) pre-deceased him; his eldest and youngest daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Perdon (comp), Sydney’s Aldermen, 1995
  • Shire & Municipal Record, April 1985, p 5
  • Mosman Daily, 30 March 1989, p 5
  • The Late Ronald Stark Luke (mayoral minute, 21 March 1989, Mosman Council, held in Local Studies collection, Mosman Library, Sydney)
  • Jack Small papers (State Library of New South Wales)

Citation details

Lisa Murray, 'Luke, Ronald Stark (Ron) (1907–1989)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 4 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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