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Francis Henry Rogan (1915–1992)

by John Young

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Francis Henry Rogan (1915–1992), town clerk and local government reformer, was born on 26 November 1915 at Maryborough, Victoria, youngest of four sons of Victorian-born parents John Le Liever Rogan, railway employee, and his wife Margaret Emma, née Ford. Frank was educated at Maryborough East State School and Maryborough High School (1928–32), where he was dux and athletics champion. He was briefly a junior clerk with Maryborough Borough Council, before joining the Education Department as a junior teacher in April 1933. He entered the Melbourne Teachers’ College in 1935 and the next year he joined the staff of Boort Higher Elementary School. Meanwhile, he enrolled part time at the University of Melbourne until World War II interrupted his studies. He completed his coursework in 1948, but did not formally graduate until 1964 (BA; BCom).

Having attempted aircrew training in the Royal Australian Air Force in 1941, Rogan enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 29 June 1942 and qualified as a wireless mechanic. He served in workshops in Australia and, from October 1943 to January 1944, in Papua. Topping his officer-training course, he was commissioned in December as a lieutenant, Corps of Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. On 14 December 1946 he transferred to the Reserve of Officers. By then he had learned that advancement came from steady work, and his military experience affirmed the value of clear aims and sound leadership.

After the war Rogan taught mathematics at Ararat, Bendigo, and Mordialloc high schools. On 17 January 1946 at St Mark’s Church of England, Camberwell, he married Melita Jean Steel, also a high school teacher. They had no children. By 1948 Rogan was a qualified municipal clerk and the Maryborough council appointed him town clerk. In his related role as secretary of the Maryborough Sewerage Authority, he negotiated State government borrowing approval for the sewering of the town. He also served as secretary of the Central Highlands Regional Committee, a State government planning body.

In 1955 Rogan was chosen from nearly one hundred applicants to be the town clerk of the Melbourne City Council (MCC). Maryborough’s citizens were jubilant, but some among the Melbourne press were sceptical about the prospects of a country boy in the city. Within a year he was made chief executive officer as well as town clerk. In addition to the usual municipal functions, the MCC was responsible for electricity supply and the city’s wholesale markets. It also faced traffic and parking challenges as car ownership grew. The demand for capital works money was intense, and Rogan took control of land acquisitions and loan allocations in consultation with key councillors. He skilfully negotiated the redevelopment of the market sites, leading to the construction of new wholesale fish, and fruit and vegetable markets.

During the early part of Rogan’s tenure, (Sir) Henry Bolte’s Liberal and Country Party State government was content to follow traditional conservative practice and let the council govern the city. A hint of change came in 1960 when the government imposed 40 percent of the cost of the proposed city underground railway on MCC ratepayers. Later in the 1960s State government bodies such as the Housing Commission and the Board of Works jostled with the council for control over town planning, and Rogan was forced to defend established local-government functions. His ‘Rogan plan’ (1967) for Melbourne’s amalgamation with neighbouring municipalities was thwarted, but his championing of a council strategy plan in the 1970s won important ground for local-government urban planning. He also initiated the Australian Capital Cities Secretariat, a lobby group for capital city governments. Urban initiatives under the Whitlam Federal government raised the profile of local government, and Rogan was a key proponent of local government training at Melbourne and Canberra tertiary colleges.

Rogan presented an austere countenance in negotiations and at public functions. Well prepared, he could deliver telling points, which did not always endear him to ministerial adversaries in the State government. Councillors of all political hues acknowledged his competence: one often referred to him as ‘the great man’ (Meldrum, pers. comm.), while another noted his ‘masterly control’ of projects and ‘fiscal prudence’ (McDonald 2009, 182). They also recognised his integrity. He detested defalcations and instantly dismissed perpetrators.

Rogan was a trim tennis player and after work graced the town hall billiard room where ‘he ruled with authority’ (McDonald 2009, 194). Retiring in November 1980, he was appointed CBE in December. He became chairman of the Municipal Clerks’ Board (1980–89) and the Local Government Boundaries Commission (1983–85). He upheld local government as a profession and believed in the importance of elected councillors democratically expressing the will of the council. Survived by his wife, he died suddenly at Sunday morning tennis on 14 June 1992 at Malvern and was cremated.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Ellingsen, Peter. ‘The Faceless Man of Melbourne.’ Age (Melbourne), 11 October 1980, 21
  • McDonald, Colin. ‘CC’ The Colin McDonald Story: Cricket, Tennis, Life. North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2009
  • Meldrum, Richard. Personal communication
  • National Archives of Australia. B883, VX80313
  • National Archives of Australia. A9301, 409229
  • Osburn, Betty. Against the Odds: Maryborough 19051961. Maryborough, Vic.: Central Goldfields Shire Council, 1995
  • Personal knowledge of ADB subject.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

John Young, 'Rogan, Francis Henry (1915–1992)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2016, accessed online 19 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

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