Australian Dictionary of Biography Volume 19: 1991–1995 (A–Z)
OATEY, JACK (1920–1994), Australian Rules footballer and coach, was born on 29 August 1920 at Semaphore, Adelaide, elder son in a family of four children of locally born parents Edward James (Ted) Oatey, driver, and his wife Agnes Ella, née John. His father had played football with Port Adelaide and West Torrens in the early 1920s before moving to work in his family’s butcher shop at Maitland on the Yorke Peninsula. Jack was educated at Woodville Primary and Maitland High schools. By the age of fourteen he was working as an apprentice compositor and playing senior football in the local competition. Three years later his father encouraged him to try out with Port Adelaide. He was given a trial, then promoted his talents to other South Australian National Football League (SANFL) clubs, before returning to the peninsula and playing for Port Victoria.
Oatey won the Mail medal for the best player in the Yorke Peninsula Football Association in 1939. Later that year, after he performed brilliantly with the YPFA’s representative side against Murray districts, league club secretaries vied to sign him. Selected by Norwood, as a nuggety rover he won the club’s best and fairest trophy in 1940, 1941, 1945, and 1948. In his second year he was also runner-up for the league’s Magarey medal. On Christmas Eve 1941 at St Aidan’s Anglican Church, Payneham, he married Mary Edith Player, a secretary. Nine days earlier he had been mobilised for full-time duty with the Citizen Military Forces in World War II. In October 1943 he transferred to the Australian Imperial Force. He served in South Australia and the Northern Territory as an orderly in the 109th and 121st Australian General hospitals. While on a course in Victoria (May–July 1944) he played five matches for South Melbourne in the Victorian Football League, garnering praise for his ‘non-stop, short-passing style’ (Record 1944, 3). A substantive sergeant from 1944, he was discharged from the AIF in Adelaide on 14 December 1945.
In 1945 Oatey was appointed captain-coach of Norwood. The immediate postwar years were productive, as his shrewd tactics guided the ‘Redlegs’ to three premierships in 1946, 1948, and 1950. He also captained South Australia in 1945 and 1949, was captain-coach of the 1950 Brisbane carnival team, and was non-playing coach of the 1959 State side. In October 1952, after 186 league games and nine for South Australia, he contested his final football match. He continued as coach of Norwood (1953–56) and then West Adelaide (1957–60), before being lured to Sturt (1962–82). At Sturt his emphasis on precise kicking to position, constructive handballing, and effective deployment of players’ skills, transformed the game. Under his tutelage the club won five premierships in succession (1966–70) before winning again in 1974 and 1976. In 1971 he had been made a life member of the club dubbed the ‘House that Jack Built’ (SFC c. 1982, 19). He was appointed AM in 1978 and three years later the SANFL instituted the Jack Oatey medal for the best player in the grand final.
By the time he retired in September 1982, Oatey had coached more than 770 matches in thirty-seven seasons and was the only elite Australian Rules coach to record over 500 wins. He ended his long-held rivalry with the Port Adelaide coach Fos Williams—formerly one of his on-field opponents—with ten premierships to Williams’s nine. As coaching was essentially a part-time occupation, he had continued working in the printing trade and retired as manager of Adelaide Typographers in 1981. He was an inspirational teacher and, among the many he trained, Neil Kerley, Daryl Hicks, Michael Nunan, Neil Craig, and his son Robert Oatey became successful senior coaches who shaped the professional game. In the years that followed Jack continued to watch matches at suburban grounds. He died on 26 February 1994 in Adelaide and was cremated. His wife survived him, as did their two sons, Robert and Peter, both SANFL footballers. Grandstands at Unley and Adelaide ovals were named after him and he was an inaugural inductee into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Coward, Mike. Men of Norwood: Red and Blue Blooded. Norwood, SA: Norwood Football Club, 1978; Lysikatos, John. True Blue: The History of the Sturt Football Club. Unley, SA: Sturt Football Club, c. 1995; National Archives of Australia. B883, SX32824; Nicholls, Barry. Triple Blue: Jack Oatey, John Wynne, and the Whole Damned Thing. Oaklands Park, SA: Pioneer Books, 2002; Record (Emerald Hill, Vic.). ‘Jack Oatey Was “Ticked Off” By South’s Sec.’ 10 June 1944, 3; Rucci, Michelangelo. ‘A Tribute to Jack Oatey.’ South Australian Football Budget, March 1994, 18–19; Schwartz, Gordon. ‘Commitment to Excellence.’ Australian, 25 March 1994, 15; Sturt Football Club (SFC). Jack Oatey: The Coach of a Lifetime. [Unley, SA]: The club, c. 1982; Whimpress, Bernard. The South Australian Football Story. West Lakes, SA: South Australian National Football League, 1983.
O’BRIEN, BERNARD MCCARTHY (BERNIE) (1924–1993), microsurgeon, was born on 25 December 1924 in Melbourne, the second of five sons of Victorian-born parents Francis Joseph O’Brien, accountant, and his wife Loretto Ann, née McCarthy, music teacher. Bernie (as he was known) suffered two early losses: the deaths of his younger brother, Peter, in 1937, and his mother three years later. Despite these setbacks, he was an able student and a tenacious athlete during his secondary schooling at Xavier College, near his home at Kew. In 1943 he secured a free place in medicine at the University of Melbourne and started combined science and medical degrees. A resident of Newman College, he earned the nickname ‘Champ’ for his creditable performances in intervarsity and State-level pole-vaulting, in spite of his stocky build.
After graduation (BSc, 1948; MB, BS, 1950) O’Brien undertook resident training at St Vincent’s Hospital, Fitzroy, then worked as a demonstrator in anatomy at the university. From 1954 to 1955 he also gained experience as a clinical assistant at both the Royal Melbourne Hospital plastic surgery unit and at St Vincent’s. A leading Melbourne plastic surgeon, Benjamin Rank, helped him gain the position of Nuffield assistant in plastic surgery at the University of Oxford (1956–57). Impatient for hands-on experience, he resigned before completing his training to take up a post as plastic surgical registrar at Odstock Hospital, Salisbury (1957–58). There he met Joan Williams, a triple-certificate nurse working in the female plastic surgery ward. They married on 18 December 1958 at St Osmond’s Roman Catholic Church, Salisbury. In 1959 the couple went to New York where O’Brien specialised in hand surgery at Roosevelt Hospital under the pioneering surgeon J. William Littler.
Equipped with overseas credentials, on his return to Melbourne in 1960 O’Brien started a private practice in Collins Street. That year he was appointed clinical assistant to the plastic surgeon and then acting assistant plastic surgeon at St Vincent’s (1961). At times ‘outspoken’ and ‘critical’ (Vellar 2004, 90), he fell out with senior colleagues at the hospital and his appointment was not renewed. He continued to pursue his research interests and in 1964 started surgical investigations of small blood vessels, nerves, and tendons at St Vincent’s, using a microscope loaned to him by the ophthalmologist Gerard Crock. In 1968 Richard Bennett, the new University of Melbourne professor of surgery at St Vincent’s, made O’Brien an honorary research assistant, or ‘main investigator’ in Bennett’s words. The same year, the hospital reappointed him as an assistant plastic surgeon and he won the first of many research grants.
In 1970, with his characteristic drive, optimism, and entrepreneurship, O’Brien persuaded a businessman, Sir William Kilpatrick [q.v.17], to chair a foundation to raise funds for research and the purchase of up-to-date facilities. Subsequently, a microsurgery research unit was established, but it was not until 1976 that it became a formal entity of St Vincent’s, with O’Brien as its director. His vision to advance the unit, as well as disagreements about financial and fundraising priorities, had initially caused tension with the hospital administration.
Over the following decade, O’Brien strengthened the scientific and surgical expertise of the unit, which rapidly developed an international reputation for training, research, and clinical innovation. In 1978, launching an appeal to raise money for a new building, he noted that the unit had already performed more than 4,000 operations including the reimplantation of severed fingers and limbs, as well as the transfer of muscles, tendons, small joints, and bones to other parts of the body. Crock, a long-standing director of the foundation, considered O’Brien an ‘imperturbable, thorough and painstaking’ microsurgeon, and was in awe of his ‘networking genius’ when it came to fundraising (Westmore 2004). In 1984 he oversaw the design and construction of a $1 million building to house the Microsurgery Research Centre at Fitzroy.
O’Brien gained further degrees from the University of Melbourne (MS, 1955; MD, 1978) and wrote numerous chapters in surgical textbooks and journal articles. His doctoral thesis became the classic textbook Microvascular Reconstructive Surgery (1977), later revised as Reconstructive Microsurgery (with Wayne A. Morrison, 1987). Of his many awards, the most significant was the René Leriche prize for vascular surgery from the Société Internationale de Chirurgie in 1979. He was appointed CMG in 1982, AC in 1991, and Victorian of the Year in 1992. A long-time member of the council of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (vice-president 1989–91), he was awarded the Sir Hugh Devine [q.v.8] medal for his contribution to surgery in 1993. He was president of the International Federation of Societies for Surgery of the Hand (1979–83) and the International Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery (1979–81). Travelling widely, he maintained a network of worldwide contacts and was admitted as a fellow of the colleges of surgeons in the United States of America, Ireland, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and South Africa. From 1983, alumni who trained in microsurgery under him gathered at international meetings as the Bernard O’Brien Society.
On 14 August 1993 O’Brien died of lung cancer at Kew and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery; he was survived by his wife, three daughters, and two sons. Two years after his death, the newly expanded Microsurgery Research Centre was renamed the Bernard O’Brien Institute of Microsurgery. His portrait, painted by Paul Fitzgerald in 1992, hangs in the institute’s foyer.
Bennett, Richard. Personal communication; Connell, John. ‘Bernard O’Brien.’ In Annual Report of the Microsurgery Research Centre, 10–11. Fitzroy, Vic.: Microsurgery Research Centre, St Vincent’s Hospital, 1991–93; Morrison, W. A. ‘Obituary: Bernard McCarthy O’Brien.’ British Journal of Plastic Surgery 47, no. 3 (1994): 204–5; Vellar, Ivo. Surgery and Surgeons at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, 1950s–2000. Richmond, Vic.: Publishing Solutions, c. 2004; Westmore, Ann, ed. ‘From “Soft” to “Hard” Science: The Development of Microvascular Surgery in Australia.’ Witness to the History of Australian Medicine seminar, 30 March 2004. Transcript. Johnstone-Need Medical History Unit, University of Melbourne. Accessed 31 December 2015. www.jnmhugateways.unimelb.edu.au/witness/pdfs/witn-2004-03-30.pdf. Copy held on ADB file.
O’DONNELL, JAMES HAMILTON (JIM) (1934–1995), professor of chemistry, was born on 3 September 1934 in South Perth, eldest of the three sons of James O’Donnell (1908–1946), a locally born forest officer, and his Victorian-born wife Annie Hamilton, née Dunn. His father’s work took the family to various parts of Western Australia. Jim attended Kirup State and, back in Perth, Como State schools. In 1945 O’Donnell senior was appointed as assistant conservator of forests in Tasmania and the family moved to Hobart. After he died in the crash of an airliner in the sea near Hobart on 10 March 1946, his wife and children returned to Perth. Jim won a scholarship to Perth Modern School (1947–51), where he excelled. In 1951 he edited the school magazine, Sphinx; served as a school prefect and a lieutenant in the cadets; and, a good sportsman, played in the Western Australian schoolboys’ hockey team. Awarded an exhibition, he entered the University of Western Australia, majoring in chemistry and physics (BSc, 1955) and gaining honours (1956) in chemistry.
On completing his studies, O’Donnell joined Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd in Melbourne, working first as a development chemist in the firm’s Yarraville factory and then as a research chemist in its central research laboratories at Ascot Vale. As a result of a meeting with Professor (Sir) Frederick (Baron) Dainton when he visited the laboratories, O’Donnell moved to England in 1959 and studied part time under Dr Ken Ivin in Dainton’s department of physical chemistry at the University of Leeds (PhD, 1963). He was also a senior demonstrator in the department and a sub-warden, successively, of Woodsley Hall and Woodsley House at Bodington Hall.
Having played A-grade hockey for St Kilda in Melbourne, O’Donnell kept up the sport at Leeds. He travelled widely in Britain and Europe, and continued passions developed earlier for walking and the outdoors. In 1963 he spent nine months with Professor Herbert Morawetz’s polymer research group at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, New York. The friendships he made at Leeds and Brooklyn would remain strong and important to him. Back in England, on 14 December that year, at the parish church of St Andrew, Starbeck, Yorkshire, he married Stella Rayner Gregory; she was a PhD student in pharmacology at Leeds and later a professor in the physiology and pharmacology department of the University of Queensland.
In February 1964 O’Donnell took up a lectureship in physical chemistry at the University of Queensland. His research followed the themes of his PhD and postdoctoral work: the mechanisms of polymerisations and the degradation of polymers by high-energy radiation. Murrae Bowden, his first PhD student, later succeeded in utilising polybutene sulfone as the mask for producing computer chips. The achievement gave O’Donnell particular satisfaction, as the selection of this polymer as a mask was based on his own fundamental research. In the mid-1970s he and two academic colleagues, Peter Pomery and David Hill, set up the polymer materials and radiation group at the university; it gained a distinguished international reputation.
During his career, O’Donnell published more than 250 research papers. His book, Principles of Radiation Chemistry (1970), co-authored with his friend David Sangster, was printed in English and Japanese. Promoted to senior lecturer (1969) and to reader (1976), he became in 1986 only the second chemistry staff member to be awarded a personal chair. In 1988 he was appointed as professor of physical chemistry. The University of Leeds awarded him a DSc (1986) for his research.
An associate member (1959) and fellow (1970) of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, from 1964 O’Donnell was prominent in its affairs and a leader of its fledgling polymer division. He chaired the division (1971–73) and the 6th Australian Polymer Symposium (1973), held at Broadbeach, Queensland. Active, as well, in the RACI’s chemical education division, he chaired its Queensland group (1980–81) and the committee (1981–84) that founded National Chemistry Week in 1981. In 1985–86 he was president of the institute. His RACI scientific awards included the Battaerd-Jordon polymer medal (1982), the H. G. Smith memorial medal (1983), and the Leighton memorial medal (1990). The Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering awarded him, posthumously, its 1995 gold medal for excellence in research.
Conscious of the need to keep abreast of international developments and to promote Australian polymer science overseas, O’Donnell had regularly attended conferences in Europe, North America, and Asia. He was active in the macromolecular division of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, and he was responsible for organising the IUPAC-sponsored symposia Polymer ’85, Polymer ’91, and Macro ’98 in Australia. In addition, he arranged a series of joint American Chemical Society-RACI polymer division mini-symposia held in the United States of America and Australia. With Otto Vogl and Takeo Saegusa, two friends from his time at Brooklyn Polytechnic, he founded the Pacific Polymer Federation in 1987; he was its third president (1992–93).
O’Donnell was a tall, athletic, friendly, and vibrant man, with abundant energy for getting things done. He died of cancer on 29 April 1995 at Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, and was cremated. His wife and their two daughters survived him. Convinced of the value of a period of research abroad, he left the RACI $25,000 to establish the Jim O’Donnell international travel awards, open to young members of the institute.
Chiswell, Barry. A Diamond Period: A Brief History of the Chemistry Department of the University of Queensland from 1910–1985. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 1986; Hill, David, and Peter Pomery. ‘Jim O’Donnell FRACI 1934–1995.’ Chemistry in Australia 62, no. 11 (November 1995): 40; O’Donnell, Stella. Personal communication; Personal knowledge of ADB subject; Polymer Division, Royal Australian Chemical Institute. Historical Records.
David J. T. Hill
O’HARRIS, PIXIE (1903–1991), children’s book author and illustrator, was born Rona Olive Harris on 15 October 1903 in Cardiff, Wales, sixth of nine children of George Frederick Harris, artist, and his wife Rosetta Elizabeth, née Lucas. Educated at Sully Village School and Allensbank Girls’ School, by the age of fourteen Rona was exhibiting drawings with the South Wales Art Society, of which her father was a chairman and secretary. In 1920, when the family migrated to Australia, Rona’s endearing ways earned her the nickname of ‘Pixie’ from her fellow travellers. During a six-month stay in Perth, she exhibited fantasy works with the West Australian Society of Arts. Settling in Sydney in 1921 she joined John Sands Ltd as a commercial artist and later drew fashion illustrations for Anthony Hordern & Sons Ltd. It was during these early years that a printer’s error—the addition of an apostrophe to her middle initial—suggested the surname ‘O’Harris’, which she soon adopted as a nom de plume. Although she studied briefly at Julian Ashton’s [q.v.7] Sydney Art School, she remained a largely self-taught artist.
O’Harris made her publishing debut with illustrations for Maud Liston’s Cinderella’s Party in 1923. Two years later The Pixie O. Harris Fairy Book showed a distinct advance in compositional strength and maturity of line. Here, for the first time, was clear evidence of her own later claim that major English fantasy illustrators like Arthur Rackham were her ‘wonderful source of inspiration’ (O’Harris 1986, 136). It is true that Rackham’s puckish humour invested her best work.
On 16 July 1928 at the Congregational House, Watsons Bay, Sydney, O’Harris married Bruce Waddell Fieldew Pratt, a wool buyer. Her husband was a younger brother of the artist Douglas Pratt; later he was the editor-in-chief of the Australian Encyclopaedia. Settling at Watsons Bay, the couple had three daughters. From her home studio, O’Harris became a prolific contributor of poems, for adults and children, and of illustrated short stories, for children. Her work appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, including the Bulletin, Aussie, the New South Wales School Magazine, and the Victorian School Paper. She also produced large quantities of bookplates, Christmas and other cards, and stationery.
The technical control in O’Harris’s pen and ink work, particularly in easily overlooked vignettes, marks her as a worthy successor in Australia to Ruby Lindsay. In 1935 her Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie became the most lavish children’s book published by Angus & Robertson Ltd during the Depression. Selections of her work from school magazines were issued as the Pixie O’Harris Story Book (1940, revised in 1948 and 1956) and the Pixie O’Harris Gift Book (1953). During the 1940s her output was further diversified by her Poppy Treloar trilogy (1941–47).
O’Harris belonged to the second generation of Australian fantasy illustrators, which included Jean Elder and Peg Maltby; she ‘captured the last of the waning enthusiasm for fairies … just when Nan Chauncy [q.v.13] was about to launch a new realism in children’s books’ (Lees and Macintyre 1993, 325). Besides her books, O’Harris is best remembered for the many children’s murals she painted in schools, hospitals, day nurseries, and orphanages. A portrait of her by Garrett Kingsley was a finalist for the Archibald prize in 1952.
O’Harris’s exhibiting career had begun with her inclusion in the Julian Ashton School retrospective in 1933, followed by a joint exhibition with Joyce Abbott, at the Wynyard Book Club, Sydney, in 1937. In the 1960s she revived this exhibition profile and maintained it until the mid-1980s. By this time she had created one of the longest-running careers of any Australian children’s book illustrator, selling hundreds of thousands of copies of her books. She was a household name in Australia together with such fellow illustrators as May Gibbs [q.v.8] and Ida Rentoul Outhwaite [q.v.11].
Appointed MBE in 1976, O’Harris was awarded both the Queen’s coronation medal (1953) and the Queen’s silver jubilee medal (1977). By the last decades of her long life, when gentle fantasy had become passé, both her failing eyesight and her declining inspiration compromised her work. She produced two volumes of autobiography: Was it Yesterday? (1983) and Our Small Safe World: Recollections of a Welsh Childhood (1986). Predeceased by her husband and survived by her daughters, she died on 17 November 1991 at Lindfield, Sydney, and was cremated. In 1993 her nephew, Rolf Harris, and her younger brother Olaf, painted a mural at the Prince of Wales Hospital, which they dedicated to her memory.
Holden, Robert. A Golden Age: Visions of Fantasy. Pymble, NSW: Angus & Robertson, 1992; Lees, Stella and Pam Macintyre. The Oxford Companion to Australian Children’s Literature. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1993; O’Harris, Pixie. Was it Yesterday? Adelaide: Rigby, 1983; O’Harris, Pixie. Our Small Safe World. Sydney: Boobook Publications, 1986; State Library of New South Wales. MLMSS 2354, Papers of Pixie O’Harris.
OLLE, JOHN ANDREW (1947–1995), broadcaster, was born on 28 December 1947 at Hornsby, Sydney, only child of Sydney-born Major John Durrant Olle, radio telegraphist, and his wife Marie Jose, née Ifwersen. His father, a World War II veteran, had been thirty-six when he married in February 1947; Marie Jose, New Zealand born and of Danish and French heritage, was twenty-one. The marriage lasted six years. Though Andrew was educated at a succession of private boarding schools—Geelong Grammar Preparatory School, Toorak, Melbourne; Albury Grammar School, New South Wales; and Ivanhoe Grammar School, Melbourne—his upbringing was far from privileged. After the divorce John had gained custody. His army career (resumed in 1948 and extending to 1960) made him an absent father; a memory later shared was of Andrew walking the fence at school, waiting for rare weekend visits. Despite this, their relationship retained what Andrew came to call a ‘distant closeness’ (Hawley 1992, 29). In 1962, with his father remarried, Andrew moved to Mornington, Victoria. Enrolled at the local State high school he proved disruptive, abandoning his studies in 1963 and facing court.
At this point a supportive parole officer rescued Olle. The next saviour was his step-grandfather. In December 1964 Olle relocated to Brisbane to live with his mother and her stepfather, who secured him a place at Brisbane Grammar School. Boarding in his final year, he won a Commonwealth scholarship and then enrolled as an arts-law student. At the University of Queensland he again drifted, before beginning a cadetship at the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Brisbane on 27 November 1967. In the following year Annette Longfield Marjason, a nurse at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, attended a function with Olle sitting at a parallel table. Ten months later, on 24 April 1969, they married at St Thomas’s Church of England, Toowong.
From 1969 to 1970 Olle worked in Townsville, before returning to Brisbane. He worked on This Day Tonight between 1971 and 1977, mostly in Brisbane but briefly (1973–74) in Melbourne. The story that put him on the national stage came in 1976 when Queensland police raided a hippy commune at Cedar Bay. An expensive assault, employing a naval patrol boat, aircraft, and armed officers, secured minor convictions and had major repercussions. His Logie-winning report, delivered with clarity and passion, was one of a series on abuse of police power by the Bjelke-Petersen government.
Moving to Sydney, Olle began working on national television programs such as Four Corners (1977–78, 1985–94), Nationwide (1979–80), A Big Country (1981), and Channel Nine’s Sunday (1981–85), demonstrating talent, industry, and versatility. He anchored election coverage and from 1987 he presented a popular morning radio show on Sydney radio station 2BL. By 1995 he was working fifteen-hour days, turning up at the radio studio at 5.30 am and going on to present the 7.30 Report that night. Interviewing was his forte; his signature expression was ‘indeed’. Probing rather than punishing, he liked the simple ‘why?’ Best of all was the creative silence. He also knew when to stop talking and let the audience think. Annette, who knew him best, described him as riddled with self-doubt, having no ego, and, as he would put it, being ‘cursed with an ability to see both sides of [an] argument’ (Olle, pers. comm.).
When, at forty-seven, he died from brain cancer on 12 December 1995 at St Leonards there was widespread shock and grief. Soon after, a nationally broadcast memorial service packed the Sydney Town Hall. An old friend, Peter Luck, noted that ‘it’s not often that a nation mourns a journalist’ (1996, 125). Survived by his wife, two sons, and a daughter, he was cremated. A memorial trust was founded in his name to raise funds for neuroscience research, and an annual media lecture and a journalism scholarship were established in his honour.
Hawley, Janet. ‘The Hidden Parts of Andrew Olle.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 16 May 1992, Good Weekend, 26–33; Luck, Peter. ‘A Decent Man.’ In Andrew Olle 1947–1995: A Tribute, edited by Annette Olle and Paul Lyneham, 120–26. Sydney: UNSW Press, 1996; Olle, Annette. Personal communication; Olle, Annette, and Paul Lyneham. Andrew Olle 1947–1995: A Tribute. Sydney: UNSW Press, 1996; Personal knowledge of ADB subject.
O’LOAN, RODERICK JOHN CHARLES (ROD) (1915–1992), retail executive, footballer, army officer, and community worker, was born on 26 March 1915 at Katoomba, New South Wales, fourth of six children of Queensland-born parents Patrick Francis Charles O’Loan, commercial traveller, and his wife Kathleen Rose, née O’Beirne (d. 1926). Frank O’Loan later bought and managed the Criterion Hotel, Narrandera. He and his wife were prominent in charity work. Educated by the Christian Brothers at Waverley College, Sydney, Rod was an outstanding schoolboy athlete and sportsman: State junior 100-yard champion in 1931; a good hurdler, high-jumper, hand-baller, and swimmer; and a member of the college’s first XI (cricket) and first XV (rugby union). After leaving school, he played first-grade rugby league for two clubs: University (1933–34) and Eastern Suburbs (1935–41). A clever and elusive winger, he scored prolifically—seven tries in one match in the 1935 season—but regretted not being selected for the Australian team. He had joined David Jones Ltd in 1933 and he travelled for the firm, selling school uniforms. At Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Randwick, on 23 March 1940 he married Mary (Molly) Patricia Croke, a clerk.
Having enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces on 16 August 1939, O’Loan began full-time duty in 1941 and transferred to the Australian Imperial Force in July 1942. By then he had risen through the ranks to captain and was serving with the 2nd Air Liaison Section, attached to No. 4 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, an army cooperation unit. In the Papuan campaign from November, he worked on the ground at Dobodura, relaying target information from the squadron’s aircrew to the artillery. He was mentioned in despatches for his efforts. Back in Australia next year, he was appointed officer commanding the 45th Air Liaison Section and in 1944 was promoted to major. The section served in New Guinea (1943–45) and Borneo (1945) with No. 4 Squadron. O’Loan often toiled sixteen hours a day, coordinating close air support for the army. He flew as an observer in low-level sorties over enemy territory and performed his staff work with tact and vigour. His superiors noted his strength of character and devotion to duty, and he was appointed MBE (1946). He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 11 September 1945.
Returning to David Jones in Sydney, O’Loan rose rapidly in the firm, which flourished in the years of national prosperity after World War II. By 1951 he was an associate director. While manager of the men’s store in Market Street, he was sent to the United States of America, Europe, and Britain to study men’s fashions in 1956. The following year he was appointed a cavaliere of the Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana for promoting an exposition in Sydney of Italian products. In 1958 he was transferred to Brisbane as managing director of David Jones’s operations in Queensland (formerly Finney Isles & Co.). He oversaw the opening of new stores throughout the State and the construction and running of the company-owned Garden City shopping complex at Mount Gravatt.
Planning and attention to detail characterised O’Loan’s management. He had been close to Sir Charles Lloyd Jones [q.v.9] and, like the chairman, was a considerate and approachable boss. One of his strengths was in identifying and mentoring bright young men, who later rose to high executive positions and remembered him affectionately. In his own career he made the most of every opportunity that came his way. He served his firm loyally but his wife wished for less dedication, on occasion increasing the volume of the popular song ‘Sixteen Tons’, to ensure he heard the words ‘I owe my soul to the company store’.
O’Loan supported a large number of industry, cultural, community, charitable, and sporting organisations, his choices reflecting his tastes and convictions as much as his business responsibilities and social position. He held office as president (1961–63, 1975–77) of the Retailers’ Association of Queensland Ltd; a trustee (1963–90) and deputy chairman of trustees (1983–90) of the Queensland Art Gallery; deputy chairman (1978–91) of the Queensland Performing Arts Trust; member (1964–74) and chairman (1972–74) of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Queensland State advisory committee; director (1972–89) and councillor (1989–92) of the Warana Festival; member (1971–85) and deputy chairman (1977–85) of the Queensland Consumer Affairs Council; member (1971–84) of the Salvation Army’s Brisbane advisory board; and trustee (1978–88) of the Brisbane Cricket Ground Trust. For his community work, he was elevated to CBE (1978).
Affable and sociable, O’Loan was a member of service, sporting, and private clubs in Brisbane and Sydney. In 1970 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He retired in 1980. His tall, athletic figure became portly in middle age, despite regular exercise, swimming and surfing. Skin cancers blighted his last years. Survived by his wife, three sons, and one daughter, he died on 19 February 1992 in Brisbane and was buried in Mount Gravatt cemetery. He had been an exemplary senior executive of an enterprise that tempered the pursuit of profit with civic values.
Campbell-Ryder, Graham. Personal communication; Courier Mail (Brisbane). ‘Death of Retail Leader.’ 21 February 1992, 2; Freeman’s Journal (Sydney). ‘Christian Brothers’ College, Waverley. Promising Athlete R. O’Loan.’ 19 March 1931, 28; Gould, Tony. Personal communication; National Archives of Australia. B883, NX100720; O’Loan, Tony. Personal communication; Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Scored Eight Tries. F. Burge Holds Record.’ 14 May 1935, 16.
O’NEIL, LLOYD JOHN (1928–1992), publisher, was born on 17 July 1928 in Melbourne, elder son of Louis Joseph O’Neil, wool classer and union organiser, and his wife Eunice Ellen, née Lloyd, both Victorian born. When Louis lost his job during the Depression, Eunice supported the family as a professional pianist. Lloyd attended State schools in Ballarat and Melbourne, before completing his education at Caulfield Grammar School (1942–44). Moving to Sydney, he started work with Angus & Robertson Ltd in January 1945. He later said: ‘the minute I hit Angus & Robertson, I knew this was the world that I wanted to be in’ (O’Neil 1991). O’Neil became a buyer and head of art books, but his prospects narrowed as former staff returned from World War II. He left the firm in January 1951.
After a year travelling around Australia, O’Neil became a rural representative for the British publisher Cassell Ltd, with a territory stretching from Cairns to Hobart. Booksellers on his route viewed his salesmanship with ‘shuddering admiration’ (Currey 1991, 2). His customers included the Brisbane bookseller Brian Clouston, with whom he often lamented the lack of books to attract Australian readers.
On 28 November 1953 at Collaroy, Sydney, O’Neil married Janet Twigg-Patterson, a clerk, and the couple soon moved to Brisbane. In 1955 Clouston recruited O’Neil to run his newly established Jacaranda Press, which was primarily a publisher of schoolbooks, but also had a small general list and represented several British publishers. In 1959 Clouston took over the management of Jacaranda full time, and the next year O’Neil left to establish Lansdowne Press in Melbourne, selling his Brisbane house to finance the venture. By May 1960, when Lansdowne opened, O’Neil had chosen a writer for a series of school readers and commissioned Lansdowne’s first book, How to Play Aussie Rules (1960), which was an immediate success.
O’Neil’s publishing style was to identify gaps in the market and approach authors to fill them. He contracted Bill Wannan to write on Australian folklore and persuaded the broadcaster Russ Tyson to write his Philosopher’s Note Book (1961). By the end of 1961 Lansdowne had three titles in the non-fiction bestseller list. The publisher and historian John Currey has observed that ‘nationalism was at the heart of Lloyd O’Neil’s publishing’ (2006, 38). A fifth-generation Australian, he was keen to give local readers access to books on subjects that interested them. As well as titles on sport and humour, Lansdowne published books on national issues: Jim Cairns on Australia in Asia, James Jupp on migration, John Stubbs on poverty, Henry Mayer [q.v.] on the media, and Geoffrey Dutton, James McAuley [q.v.15], Vincent Buckley [q.v.17], and others on Australian literature.
O’Neil became increasingly critical of local printers, whose outdated technology and low-quality paper made Australian books perceptibly inferior to imports. In search of an alternative, he visited Tokyo in 1963 and engaged a Japanese printing company to produce four titles. They were very successful and other publishers followed his lead. The shift to printing in Asia revolutionised Australian publishing: lower costs neutralised the disadvantage of shorter print runs, and colour printing made it possible to produce a full range of Australian books.
In 1963 O’Neil sold Lansdowne to the larger Melbourne firm F. W. Cheshire [q.v.17] Publishing Pty Ltd. He stayed on, producing Australian editions of Martin Boyd’s [q.v.13] novels and initiating a series of high-quality art books, but Cheshire too became a takeover target. In November 1964 it was sold to a joint venture between the British firm International Publishing Corporation Ltd and the Melbourne printers Wilke and Co. Ltd. It was an unhappy partnership. Frank Cheshire left the firm in 1967 and O’Neil took over as general manager. Then, in mid-1969, he was sacked.
The next day, O’Neil started a new business, Lloyd O’Neil Pty Ltd, again raising finance by selling his house. His strategy was to supply finished books to other publishers, who would cover overheads and distribution. He initially partnered with Golden Press and Rigby, both of which had invested heavily in warehouses and needed to boost sales. His successful titles included the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, which first appeared in 1970, and the BP Australian Road Atlas, first published in 1977. He partnered with John Currey to develop what became known as the Lloyd O’Neil Publishing Group. Currey and O’Neil revived many Australian titles that were out of print. They took copyright over most of the work they commissioned, building up a formidable backlist and a vast amount of text and images that could be easily reused in different formats.
O’Neil was president (1969–71) of the Australian Book Publishers Association (ABPA) and a member (1967–76) of the National Literature Board of Review. He separated from his first wife in 1973 and they were divorced in 1978. The next year he married Anne O’Donovan, a publisher. In the late 1970s he began producing books for Gordon & Gotch Australia Pty Ltd. His ambitious program included the travel guide Explore Australia, first published in 1980, and Ken Simpson and Nicolas Day’s The Birds of Australia (1984).
In 1985 O’Neil had $1 million invested in work in progress when the Australian dollar depreciated sharply, raising his costs and turning profits into losses. He responded by selling his successful educational series, Reading Rigby and Moving into Maths. Then, in August 1987, he sold his companies to Penguin Books Australia Ltd. While the negotiations were in progress, O’Neil was diagnosed with bowel cancer, but he returned to work after surgery. He joined the board, and Penguin gave him control of a new imprint, Viking O’Neil. Reflecting on his time at Penguin, O’Neil observed that its philosophy was in line with his own: ‘Wherever people are, there should be books, and they should be cheap, and they should be attractive, and people should want to read them’ (O’Neil 1991). In 1991 he was appointed AM. He died of cancer on 27 February 1992 at Hawthorn, Melbourne, and was cremated. He was survived by his wife, their son and daughter, and the four daughters of his first marriage. The ABPA established the Lloyd O’Neil award for outstanding service to the Australian book industry in 1992.
Currey, John. The Australian Publishing of Lloyd O’Neil: A Celebration of Thirty Years. Canberra: Australia Government Publishing Service, 1991, ‘Case-study: Lansdowne and Lloyd O’Neil.’ In Paper Empires: A History of the Book in Australia, 1945–2005, edited by Craig Munro and Robyn Sheahan-Bright, 38–41. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 2006; Dutton, Geoffrey. A Rare Bird: Penguin Books in Australia 1946–96. Ringwood, Vic.: Penguin, 1996; Lee, Jenny. ‘Australia in Colour.’ Southern Review: Communication, Politics & Culture 40, no. 1 (2007): 41–61; O’Neil, Helen. ‘Ratbags at the Gates.’ Griffith Review 23 (2009): 11–40; O’Neil, Lloyd. Interview by Alec Bolton, 29–31 July 1991. Transcript. National Library of Australia.
O’NEIL, WILLIAM MATTHEW (BILL) (1912–1991), professor of psychology, was born on 15 June 1912 in Sydney, youngest of four children of New South Wales–born James Lambert O’Neil, grazier, and his Irish-born wife Susan, née Kennedy. His father had a small leasehold sheep property at Collarenebri, New South Wales. Initially taught by his mother, who had been a pupil-teacher, at the age of eleven Bill was enrolled in Blackfriars Correspondence School. Foreshadowing his later critical approach, he challenged exercises he thought silly, such as imagining a conversation between a cat and a canary. About this time he encountered some articles in the School Magazine by the State astronomer, William Ernest Cooke [q.v.8], describing the constellations. Under the outback skies he used these articles to identify them himself, beginning a lifelong interest in astronomy. Another State astronomer, Harley Wood, later became a close friend.
Each O’Neil child was allowed two years at boarding school, but due to the advocacy of his elder sister, Ida, O’Neil returned to De La Salle College, Armidale, to complete his Leaving certificate. Achieving a modest pass, he won a Teachers’ College scholarship to the University of Sydney (BA, 1933; DipEd, 1934; MA, 1935). At university he worked hard to overcome his educational deficiencies. He succeeded, obtaining a high distinction and the Lithgow scholarship in first-year psychology, first-class honours in English and psychology and the university medal in psychology in his third year, and a second university medal for his Master’s thesis. As a student, he lived with Ida, who had settled in Sydney with her husband. To stretch his finances in these Depression years, he made his own pyjamas and shirts and even his MA hood on her sewing machine.
Appointed to teach English and history at Marrickville Girls’ Intermediate High School (later Marrickville High School) in 1936, O’Neil was not a success. He ‘learned to teach’ (O’Neil 1978, 200), and in later years his university teaching was highly regarded: characterised by deep scholarship, conceptual clarity, and taking students seriously. He was rescued from school teaching by appointment in 1936 as psychologist-in-charge of the Vocational Guidance Bureau, Department of Labour and Industry. There he was active in developing and validating aptitude tests and in producing the first careers leaflets for school leavers. On 19 December that year he married Kathleen Ferris, a fellow arts student and school teacher, at the district registrar’s office, North Sydney. Kath was to be a strong and supportive figure in his career. Four years later he became vocational and welfare officer at Sydney Technical College. During World War II he was involved in a range of applied projects, including the rehabilitation and vocational guidance of disabled service men and women.
In 1945 O’Neil ended what he referred to as ‘my nine years’ exile’ (O’Neil 1978, 200), having obtained a lectureship in psychology at the University of Sydney. However, he had also applied for the McCaughey chair of psychology being vacated by his teacher, H. Tasman Lovell [q.v.10]. Given his youth and strong Australian accent he was not optimistic, but he personally impressed the committee and was offered the chair. At the age of thirty-two he thus became the second professor of psychology at the university, which then had the only chair of psychology in Australia.
The boy from the bush set up a department somewhat at odds with the formal Oxonian traditions of the faculty of arts. Neither O’Neil nor his lecturers wore gowns, and they maintained their Australian accents. Gradually he developed a flourishing department with many more staff, a revised curriculum, and raised standards. He regarded himself as a generalist, routinely teaching the courses of any staff on sabbatical leave. There were frequent meetings and social occasions, characterised by spirited intellectual discussion and witty exchanges, including O’Neil’s many Irish jokes. At the same time he maintained a certain gravitas and personal reserve.
O’Neil’s academic interests included his discipline’s method and history, psychological theory and the philosophy of science, and perception. Using his book An Introduction to Method in Psychology (1957), he exposed first-year students to logic and the testing of hypotheses as well as methods. He continued applying psychometrics, introducing the scaling of student marks and carrying out research on student assessment. His greatest intellectual influence was his colleague John Anderson [q.v.7], Challis professor of philosophy. O’Neil adopted Anderson’s direct realist epistemology, as well as his atheism and, most importantly, his critical approach to all things.
Unlike Anderson, however, O’Neil fostered academic freedom in course content. He appointed Richard Champion, a behaviourist, and John Maze, a Freudian. He encouraged all lecturers to analyse underlying concepts and to have their students consider different points of view and think critically. Many O’Neil graduates achieved international distinction for their research. Thirteen appointees to Australian chairs of psychology and multiple overseas professors were former staff or students.
Along with the two professors of philosophy, Anderson and Alan Stout [q.v.18], in 1958 O’Neil was named in a pamphlet by V. J. Kinsella, alleging they were corrupting student morals by their teaching. Despite not being directly involved, O’Neil was seen to be a fellow traveller of ‘the Push’, a movement with an Andersonian core and a commitment to anti-bourgeois values, irreligion, sexual freedom, and convivial drinking involving a number of staff and students in the psychology department in the 1950s and 1960s. The accusation gained wide currency when taken up in a 1961 sermon by the Anglican archbishop of Sydney, Hugh Gough. O’Neil wrote a response in the student newspaper, Honi Soit, denying that explicit advocacy of moral positions was occurring and defending the free academic exploration of ideas.
After serving two terms as chairman of the Professorial Board (1955–59 and 1961–65), O’Neil became deputy vice-chancellor in 1965, relinquishing the headship of psychology. In his administrative roles he participated in major changes to universities, including the implementation of the Report of the Committee on Australian Universities (Murray report, 1957), the introduction of student quotas, the setting up of the Australian Research Grants Committee, and the introduction of more democratic forms of university governance. He wrote evidence-based articles on predicting student performance for the University of Sydney News, advocating more stringent selection criteria. This interest in performance was also relevant in his service on the New South Wales Board of Senior School Studies and as chair (1969–72) of the Australian Research Grants Committee. He retired from the university in 1978.
As an educator and a prominent figure in the Australian Psychological Society, O’Neil was arguably the most influential figure in the development of psychology in Australia. He published papers, pamphlets, and short commentaries throughout his career, spanning applied and academic interests. His books, An Introduction to Method, Fact and Theory (1969), and The Beginnings of Modern Psychology (1968), were translated into other languages, and his historical work, A Century of Psychology in Australia (1987), was the first book on that subject. He also published two books on astronomy: Time and the Calendars (1975) and Early Astronomy from Babylonia to Copernicus (1986). In 1978 he was appointed AO, and in 1979 the University of Sydney conferred on him an honorary doctorate of letters. Survived by his wife and two children, he died on 1 June 1991 at home in Chatswood, and was cremated.
Day, Ross. ‘William Mathew O’Neil, 1912–1991.’ In Annual Report, 91–93. Canberra: Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, 1991; O’Neil, W. M. ‘Autobiography.’ In Conceptual Analysis and Method in Psychology: Essays in Honour of W. M. O’Neil, edited by J. P. Sutcliffe, 195–206. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1978; O’Neil, William Matthew. Interview by Hazel de Berg, 4, 7 December 1973. Transcript. Hazel de Berg collection. National Library of Australia; Turtle, Alison M. ‘Institution, Ideology, Icon: Psychology at Sydney 1921–1996.’ Australian Journal of Psychology 49, no. 3 (December 1997): 121–27.
OPPENHEIM, GERALD FREDERICK (1925–1995) and MARGARET RAE OPPENHEIM (1926–2010), pharmaceutical manufacturers, were husband and wife. Gerald was born Gerd Friedo Oppenheim on 29 October 1925 at Dresden, Germany, only child of Erwin Oppenheim, dermatologist, and his wife, Margot Fanny, née Sternberg. The Oppenheims were non-practising Jews, but with worsening anti-Semitism in Germany they migrated to Australia in 1939, arriving in Melbourne in June. Erwin’s medical qualifications were not recognised in Australia, but he was allowed to practise as a dermatologist provided he did not prescribe medicines. Gerald was quick to Anglicise his name and then to improve his English while he attended state schools at Windsor and Toorak, and then Melbourne Boys’ High School (1941–44). He won a residential scholarship to Queen’s College, University of Melbourne (BSc, 1949), studying medicine for two years before switching to chemistry and biochemistry.
Margaret Rae Elliott was born on 12 August 1926 at Trentham, Victoria, younger child of Lewis Edward Elliott, general merchant, and his wife, Margaret May, née Beckwith. As her family moved around Victoria, Rae attended various state schools until she won a scholarship (1940–42) to Firbank Church of England Girls’ Grammar School, Brighton, Melbourne. She then trained as a nurse at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, before she and a friend voyaged to London in May 1950.
Oppenheim had met Elliott during a holiday at Mt Buffalo in 1947. After a year spent working for a pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Sydney, he followed her to London in January 1951. They were married on 30 June at the parish church of St John-at-Hampstead. He worked as a chemist for a food manufacturer, she as a nurse and then as an office worker. After a six-month tour of Europe, they returned to Melbourne in November 1952. Gerald failed to find suitable employment, so he and Rae began their own business, operating from their home in Elsternwick, making skincare products based on ideas suggested by his father. Adopting a name that recognised Erwin’s influence and included Gerald’s initials, they settled on Ego Laboratories.
Initially, the Oppenheims worked part time in the business while holding down jobs, Gerald as a teacher of science and geography at Malvern Central School, Rae as a home-visit nurse. In 1954 Gerald went full time into the business and moved it to nearby commercial premises, which were later expanded. Within a year the Ego name was registered as a trademark, sales tax exemptions were obtained for raw materials, and products were registered with government agencies. Gerald researched and manufactured the products in small batches, assistants bottled and labelled them, and Rae delivered them to clients.
The firm’s initial product line included a shampoo, a hair tonic, and a successful pine tar–based bath solution that became known as Pinetarsol. Erwin was their main customer until Rae began promoting the products to physicians and pharmacists, and thereafter the business grew steadily. Gerald carefully studied trade literature and observed market trends and opportunities for new products. By 1962 local and interstate sales had reached ₤18,726, yielding a profit of ₤2,624. The company incorporated that year as Ego Laboratories Pty Ltd and began to expand into overseas markets.
The Oppenheims were always sensitive to the needs of their customers. In 1975 they altered the composition of their bath oil, Egol, at the request of a dermatologist at the Queen Victoria Hospital, and named the new product Q. V. Bath Oil. The prefix was later adopted for other skincare products. In 1975 the company name changed to Ego Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd and three years later the business moved to larger premises in Cheltenham that incorporated a research department. By 1980 annual sales had exceeded $1 million. Rae compiled a promotional booklet, Common Skin Conditions: Descriptions and Suggested Treatments (1982), which was reprinted many times and increased Ego’s profile among medical practitioners. In 1986 the company opened a new manufacturing plant at Braeside and won a Commonwealth of Australia small business award. After an eight-year research program, it launched its successful sunscreen range, SunSense, in 1988.
Gerald Oppenheim was a shy man, but ‘highly intelligent and with an unshakeable confidence in his ability to succeed’; Rae compensated for his shyness and provided valuable support ‘in the area of personnel relationships’ (Andrews 1996, 13). Gerald was a member of the Australian Society of Cosmetic Chemists, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (fellow 1978), and the small business group of the Australian Institute of Management. He was also a supporter of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the Australian Dermatological Association (from 1967 the Australasian College of Dermatologists). With Rae he travelled regularly to attend dermatological conferences and to visit the company’s overseas distributors, but it was not until 1986 that they included Dresden in their itinerary. Members of Gerald’s family had emigrated or had died in the Holocaust during World War II, so, apart from meeting with his childhood nanny, they found their visit to the East German city, still not recovered from the war, a depressing experience.
During the 1980s Gerald and Rae gradually stepped back from the company they had created. Their younger son Alan had studied chemistry and computer science at Monash University and joined Ego in 1981 as scientific director. He was later joined by his wife Jane, who had completed a doctorate in biochemistry at Monash and postdoctoral studies at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. They took over management of the business when Gerald and Rae retired in 1993. Gerald began writing an autobiography and company history, which was later completed by Rae. Diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993, he died of bowel cancer on 1 December 1995 at Malvern and was cremated. At the time of his death Ego Pharmaceuticals employed eighty people, manufactured forty-five products, exported to fourteen countries, and remained a family-owned company. Survived by her two sons, Rae died on 22 October 2010 at Brighton and was cremated.
Andrews, Bruce. ‘Skin-Care Chemist Beat Multinationals.’ Australian, 3 January 1996, 13; Ego: The First Fifty Years. Videorecording. Braeside, Vic.: Ego Pharmaceuticals, 2003; Oppenheim, Alan. Personal communication; Oppenheim, Gerald, with Rae Oppenheim. Strong Ego and Thick Skin. Braeside, Vic.: Ego Pharmaceuticals, 2003; Strasser, P. H. A. ‘Gerald Frederick Oppenheim, 29 October 1925 – 1 December 1995.’ Chemistry in Australia, February 1996, 96 Jones, Alan J. ‘Industry Profile: Ego Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd.’ Chemistry in Australia, December 2006, 14–16.
Ian D. Rae
O’REILLY, WILLIAM JOSEPH (BILL) (1905–1992), cricketer and journalist, was born on 20 December 1905 at White Cliffs, New South Wales, fourth of seven children of New South Wales–born Ernest Peter O’Reilly, schoolteacher, and his Victorian-born wife Mina, née Welsh. Teaching transfers took the O’Reilly family to Marengo (Murringo), near Young, and then to Wingello, in the Southern Highlands. Bill travelled by train to Goulburn High School for two years before boarding at St Patrick’s College for three years. He earned a scholarship to attend the Teachers’ College, Sydney (1924–25). On holiday in December 1925, he played for the Wingello cricket team. A match against Bowral over two Saturdays led to a celebrated encounter with the seventeen-year-old (Sir) Donald Bradman. On the first day Bradman scored 234 not out, but, when he resumed the innings on the second day, O’Reilly bowled him with his first ball.
In Sydney O’Reilly had taken up athletics with the Botany Harriers, excelling in field events such as the running hop, step, and jump. He played cricket for David Jones Ltd on Moore Park for two years, heading the competition’s bowling averages. During his first posting as a teacher, at Erskineville Public School, he joined the North Sydney Cricket Club in the 1926–27 season. Such was his success that he was selected for New South Wales in 1927–28. The Department of Public Instruction then posted him to a succession of country schools, at Griffith, Rylstone, and Kandos. While absent from first-grade and first-class cricket, he perfected his most lethal delivery, the ‘wrong’un’; difficult to detect, it also bounced disconcertingly.
After O’Reilly was appointed to Kogarah Boys’ Intermediate High School in 1931, he rejoined the North Sydney club. He appeared for the State side in the 1931–32 season and performed sufficiently well to be chosen for the last two Tests against South Africa. In the 1932–33 ‘bodyline’ series against England, he led the bowling attack with 27 dismissals. On 6 May 1933 at the Catholic Church of St Francis of Assisi, Paddington, he married Mary Agnes Herbert, a typiste. Next year he moved to Hurstville and joined the St George District Cricket Club.
O’Reilly and Clarrie Grimmett [q.v.9] formed a powerful partnership in the national team. They took 53 of the 72 wickets (28 to O’Reilly) that fell to Australia during the Tests on the Australians’ 1934 tour of England. While O’Reilly bowled downwind at near medium pace, Grimmett bowled more slowly and into the wind, the accuracy of both spinners maintaining pressure on the batsmen. In the third Test, O’Reilly dismissed three top-order batsmen (Cyril Walters, Bob Wyatt, and Wally Hammond) in four balls. Grimmett (44 wickets) and O’Reilly (27) dominated the bowling during the 1935–36 Australian tour of South Africa.
Grimmett having been dropped from the team, O’Reilly was the leading Australian wicket-taker (with 25) during the 1936–37 Ashes series in Australia, and he repeated the achievement (with 22) during the next, in England in 1938. He took 8 for 33 in the single Test that Australia played against New Zealand in 1946. Troubled by his left knee, he retired from first-class cricket at the end of that tour. In a short but spectacular international career, he had played in 27 Tests, securing 144 wickets at an average of 22.59. In all first-class games, he took 774 wickets at 16.60.
The problems of balancing teaching and cricket had caused O’Reilly to contemplate retiring from the game in the mid-1930s. Employment at Sydney Grammar School from 1935 to 1939, where he received leave on half-pay while absent playing fixtures, alleviated this problem. After briefly joining his friend Stan McCabe in his Sydney sports store, O’Reilly became company secretary of the Lion Tile Co. Pty Ltd in 1940, and was to remain with the firm for thirty-six years. Because the company was declared a protected undertaking, he was unable to serve in World War II.
A fine clubman, O’Reilly played first-grade cricket until 1948–49. He had led St George to four successive premierships from 1939–40. In 1946 he was appointed a delegate to the New South Wales Cricket Association but was ousted in 1950. He believed that he was a victim of sectarianism, and that he had been overlooked for the captaincy of the Australian side in 1946 for the same reason. Earlier, in 1937, he had been one of four Catholic members of the team whom the Australian Cricket Board of Control summoned to face vague and unsupported allegations, one of them being that they were undermining Bradman’s authority as captain. O’Reilly suspected that Bradman was complicit in this debacle and later commented, ‘I really never forgave him’ (O’Reilly 1992), even though Bradman denied any involvement. Bradman and O’Reilly greatly respected each other’s ability, but they had limited rapport. Gregarious, bold, even abrasive, and proud of his Irish heritage, O’Reilly had little in common with Bradman except cricket.
When O’Reilly covered the 1946–47 English tour of Australia for the Sydney Morning Herald, he launched a career in journalism that lasted until 1988. Clarity, wit, and forcefulness characterised his reporting. In his later years he frequently lamented the decline of spin bowling and the promotion of limited-overs cricket. He published two tour books and an autobiography.
Six feet three inches (190 cm) tall, balding, broad-shouldered, and loose-limbed, with large hands that could almost enclose two cricket balls, O’Reilly bowled a leg break and two varieties of top-spinners, as well as his wrong’un. He bowled more balls per Test (371), on some of the most unresponsive pitches, than any Australian bowler other than his spin partner Clarrie Grimmett [q.v.9] (392). His approach to the wicket was awkward: he ‘wheeled and strained over 13 long paces before releasing [the ball] in a convulsive tangle of arms and legs’ (McHarg 1990, 10). His antipathy to batsmen earned him the nickname ‘Tiger’. While he bowled with his right hand, he batted left-handed, playing an occasional swashbuckling innings. He was an indifferent fielder.
O’Reilly came to be widely regarded as the ‘greatest bowler of his time’ (McHarg 1996, 399). In 1980 he was appointed OBE for his contributions as a player and a writer, and in 1986 he was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. The Pat Hills [q.v.] Stand at the Sydney Cricket Ground was renamed the Bill O’Reilly Stand in 1988. That year the Sydney Morning Herald introduced the O’Reilly medal, awarded annually to the best first-grade player in the Sydney competition. O’Reilly died on 6 October 1992 at Caringbah and was buried in Woronora cemetery. His wife and their daughter and son survived him.
Bradman, Sir Donald. ‘“Tiger” Probably the Greatest of All Time, Says The Don.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 7 October 1992, 1; Coward, Mike. A Century of Achievement: The Players and People of the St George District Cricket Club. West Pennant Hills, NSW: Cricket Publishing Co., 2010; Haigh, Gideon, and David Frith. Inside Story: Unlocking Australian Cricket’s Archives. Southbank, Vic.: News Custom Publishing, 2007; McHarg, Jack. Bill O’Reilly: A Cricketing Life. Newtown, NSW: Millennium Books, 1990; McHarg, Jack. ‘O’Reilly, William Joseph.’ In The Oxford Companion to Australian Cricket, edited by Richard Cashman, Warwick Franks, Jim Maxwell, Brian Stoddart, Amanda Weaver, and Ray Webster, 399–400. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1996; National Library of Australia. Bill O’Reilly. Interview by John Ringwood. 29 February, 21 March, 25 April, and 18 July 1992. Transcript; O’Reilly, Bill. ‘Tiger’: 60 Years of Cricket. Sydney: William Collins Pty Ltd, 1985; Pollard, Jack. Australian Cricket: The Game and the Players. North Ryde, NSW: Angus and Robertson, 1988.
R. I. Cashman
O’SHEA, BERNARD ANTHONY (BARNEY) (1906–1993), Catholic priest and education administrator, was born on 15 August 1906 at Redcliffe, Queensland, eighth of nine children of Irish-born parents Michael O’Shea, storekeeper, and his wife Mary Ann, née Coman. The family operated a general store at Caboolture, and Bernard went to the local state primary school. Aged thirteen, he enrolled at the Christian Brothers’ St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace, Brisbane, travelling 31 miles (50 km) in one and a half hours to and from the city each day by train. Between 1923 and 1926 he worked in the State Government Insurance Office. Deciding to study for the Catholic priesthood, he attended St Columba’s College, Springwood, New South Wales (1927–29), and St Patrick’s College, Manly, Sydney (1930–33). While he never considered himself a scholar, in 1932 he received first prize for each of scripture, dogmatic theology, and canon law.
On 8 December 1933 O’Shea was ordained at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane. His first appointment was as an assistant to Father James Kelly at Mary Immaculate parish, Annerley. He moved to St Mary’s, South Brisbane, in 1943. That year Archbishop (Sir) James Duhig [q.v.8] appointed him as diocesan inspector of Christian doctrine and youth movements in schools. In effect the archbishop’s eyes and ears in the archdiocesan schools, he monitored religious education. He also disseminated the Church’s social teaching to promote social justice and to respond from the standpoint of Catholic theology to secularising influences. In 1952 he became parish priest at St Ita’s, Dutton Park, a post he was to occupy for the next three decades, while also serving the wider Catholic community.
Having been appointed director of Catholic education in Brisbane in 1948, O’Shea became the inaugural director of the Brisbane Catholic Education Office in 1966 and he retained that position when elected the first director of the Queensland Catholic Education Commission in 1973. He was a Queensland representative on the National Catholic Education Commission on its formation in 1969. In the 1960s and 1970s his duties involved him in the conflict over state aid to non-government schools; leaders were needed who were skilled negotiators and agile policy-makers. After a meeting with Catholic education administrators in Queensland during the 1972 Federal election campaign, Gough Whitlam was reported to have said that `he had never faced such incisive questioning as he had from Fr Barney O’Shea’ (Quirke 1992, 10).
Zealous in his commitment to expanding Catholic education, O’Shea rejoiced in the increased Federal funding that the Australian Schools Commission provided from 1974. A new Catholic school opened in the archdiocese nearly every year in the 1970s and early 1980s. The commission’s policy of dealing with central authorities contributed to the growth of centralised administrative structures within Catholic education, a transformation that O’Shea fostered. Some Catholic school communities resented the loss of parochial autonomy as he assumed greater executive powers and responsibilities. He strove to reconcile these differences, but, despite his reputation as a bridge-builder, he could be dogged in pursuit of his aims. Having started with a few voluntary helpers in 1948, he ultimately headed a large organisation comprising planning, construction, staffing, salaries, and accounting divisions, and consultants in all the specialisations in secular and religious education. The provision of facilities for children with special needs was one of his particular interests.
O’Shea was universally known as `Father Barney’, indicating a relaxed and approachable person, not given to formality and pretension. Small talk and chit-chat did not come easily to him. A non-drinker, he found challenging the conviviality of social functions associated with educational and pastoral groups. He was an enthusiastic reader who liked to keep up to date with the latest ideas circulating in the Church and the wider world. He cherished his life and career as a priest, and proved a loyal and trusted servant of the bishops for whom he worked. Although doing his best to avoid honours and public accolades, he was awarded Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee medal in 1977, nominated by Clyde Gilmour, the director-general of education. The Queensland Institute for Educational Administration awarded him its fellowship in 1981, recognising his part in achieving a high level of cooperation between the Queensland Department of Education and Catholic schools. Retiring on 8 December 1983, he assumed the overseeing role of archdiocesan vicar for education, and devoted more time to his favourite recreation, fishing. In 1993 he published Known and Respected, a memoir of priests with whom he had served.
Fr Barney O’Shea died on 8 July 1993 in Brisbane and was buried in Nudgee cemetery. At his funeral Mass at St Stephen’s Cathedral, Archbishop Francis Rush emphasised his significant contribution to Catholic education over forty years and to education nationally in the 1970s. The Fr Bernard O’Shea In-Service Centre, Wilston, was named in his honour.
Catholic Leader (Brisbane). ‘Fellowship for Education Office Director.’ 1 November 1981, 14; O’Shea, Bernard. Known and Respected. Dutton Park, Qld: privately published, 1993. Booklet held in Brisbane Catholic Archdiocesan Archives; Owen, Ray. ‘Fr Barney: The Last Goodbye to “a Great and Good Man”.’ Catholic Leader (Brisbane), 21 July 1993, 13; Quirke, Noel. The Wind beneath their Wings: A History of John Paul College 1982–1992. Milton, Qld: Jacaranda Press, 1992; Ryan, Maurice. From a Suitcase on the Verandah: Father Bernard O’Shea and the Development of Catholic Education in Brisbane 1943–1983. Brisbane: Brisbane Catholic Education, 2005.
OSTOJA-KOTKOWSKI, JOSEPH STANISLAW (STAN) (1922–1994), artist, was born on 28 December 1922 at Golub, Poland, son of Stefan Kotkowski, bank manager, and his wife Jadwiga, née Niejedli. In 1937 the family moved to Przasnysz, where he continued his secondary education. During the Nazi occupation his father was placed in a forced-labour camp. Stas, as he was then known, worked in several jobs to support his mother and younger sister. Having demonstrated artistic talent from an early age, he studied painting and drawing under Olgierd Vetesco. In early 1945 he was sent into forced labour at Warendorf, West Germany. At the end of World War II he was relocated to a displaced persons camp at Düsseldorf and secured a scholarship to continue his artistic training at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
In 1949 he migrated to Australia, where he became known as Ostoja or Stan. Assigned to employment cutting sandwiches at an army camp in Melbourne, he worked in the mornings and attended the National Gallery schools (1950–52) in the afternoon. His other projects included painting a theatre set (1951), collaborating with Clem Christensen on a film (1953), and exhibiting at the Macquarie Galleries in Sydney (1953). In 1953 he secured a job as a house painter at Leigh Creek, South Australia. Inspired by the ‘superb and vivid’ colours of inland Australia, he attempted to incorporate this light in his paintings (Ostoja-Kotkowski 1969, 10).
By 1955 Ostoja had settled at Stirling in the Adelaide Hills. That year he staged a solo exhibition at the Royal South Australian Society of Arts. He was a driven artist and developed skills in several fields. His early work spanned painting, photography, film-making, stained glass, sculpture, murals, and vitreous enamels. He regularly designed sets for the ballet and stage plays, and twice won the Cornell contemporary art prize (1957, 1959). From the early 1960s he began to experiment with technology, producing ground-breaking work in chromasonics (the transformation of sound into images) and laser kinetics. For the 1964 Adelaide Festival of Arts he fashioned the MLC building into an eleven-storey light mosaic.
At the laboratories of Philips Electrical Industries of Australia Pty Ltd, Hendon, Ostoja used modified televisions to generate electronic paintings, and photographed the results. His 1964 exhibition of these pictures at the Argus Gallery, Melbourne, was unfavourably reviewed by critics and a financial failure. He persisted and three years later his work was recognised for excellence by Switzerland’s Fédération Internationale De L’Art Photographique. He also won a Churchill fellowship to travel overseas and study techniques of fixing electronic images onto a permanent surface. At Stanford University, California, United States of America, he explored the artistic possibilities of lasers. On his return, the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury helped him to set up a laser beam that could be synchronised with voices or electronic music to produce pictures on a screen. His subsequent ‘Sound and Image’ show at the 1968 Adelaide Festival was innovative in its use of a laser in theatre. Two years later his 120-foot-high (36.6 m) chromosonic tower was the centrepiece of illuminations at the festival. Among his other commissions were an annual Christmas ornament on the BP Australia Ltd building in Melbourne and a mural for the Australian pavilion at Expo ’67, Montreal, Canada.
In 1971 Ostoja took up a Creative Arts fellowship at The Australian National University, Canberra. Assisted by the Research School of Physical Sciences, he created a Laser-Chromason, an auto-kinetic device. He and the composer Don Banks [q.v.13] used the device in Synchronos ‘72, a concert in which music was translated into kinetic images. Ostoja would stage several similar productions including at Ballarat (1984), at South Australia’s sesquicentenary celebrations (1986), and in Warsaw (1991). In 1973 he again went to the United States aided by an Australian-American Education Association travel award. Criticised by some for his scientific approach, he claimed that he was ‘not seeking to obscure art with technology’ but was ‘trying to free the imagination from the impediments of traditional media’. He argued that his methods could ‘lead to a more immediate articulation of visual ideas in art’ (1975, 144). In time his art was widely embraced and provided him with financial independence.
A strong individualist and a consummate self-promoter, Ostoja was intelligent, opinionated, and energetic. His art was born in Eastern Europe and shaped by the Australian light. He was a pioneering multimedia artist but because much of his laser/kinetic and theatre works were transitory, records of them are found only in publications, photographs, or on video. Having been elected a fellow of London’s Royal Society of Arts in 1972, he was awarded the medal of Merit for Polish Culture in 1990 and appointed AM in 1992. He died on or about 2 April 1994 at his Stirling home and was cremated. Although he never married, he rarely lacked female companions (Kenihan 1994, 13). At his childhood home of Przasnysz a street and medals for culture are named after him. In 2008 his archives—held in Adelaide and Melbourne—were inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation’s Australian Memory of the World program.
Davidson, Ian. Art, Theatre, and Photography: Remembering Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski (1922–1994) in Adelaide, South Australia, 1954–1972. [Strathalbyn, SA: I. Davidson], c. 1999; Edwards, June. ‘Explorer in Light.’ Bibliofile: Quarterly Publication of the Friends of the State Library of South Australia 12, no. 3 (August 2009): 27–33; Jones, Stephen. ‘Light Becomes the Medium.’ Meanjin 68, no. 1 (Autumn 2009): 29–41; Kenihan, Geoffrey. ‘Refugee Artist Made the Light Fantastic.’ Australian, 13 April 1994, 13; Macdonald, Ian S. ‘Josef Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski: Explorer in Light and Sound.’ PhD diss., Charles Sturt University, 2005. Accessed 17 October 2017. www.crookedmirror.com/soundandlight/; Ostoja-Kotkowski, Josef Stanislaus. Interview by Hazel de Berg, 17 December 1969. Transcript. Hazel de Berg collection. National Library of Australia; Ostoja-Kotkowski, Stanislaw. ‘Audio-Kinetic Art with Laser Beams and Electronic Systems.’ Leonardo 8, no. 2 (Spring 1975): 142–44; ‘Stanisław ‘Ostoja-Kotkowski: Two‘rca Sztuki Laserowej.’ Accessed 17 October 2017. ostoja.kotkowski.w.interia.pl/eng.htm. Copy held on ADB file; State Library of South Australia. PRG 919, Papers of Joseph Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski.
OTAEGUI, MARIA PILAR (1935–1994), co-founder of the Spanish Club of Sydney, was born on 2 March 1935 at Cuerva, Toledo province, Spain, eldest of four children of Mariano Moreno Santamaría, and his wife Pilar Tuya Gómez, both schoolteachers. In 1939, at the close of the Spanish Civil War, the family moved to Madrid, where Pilar attended a Catholic primary school. She later studied at the Instituto Lope de Vega, and upon graduating completed a secretarial course. From her youth Moreno was an activist, standing up for the rights of workers and the disadvantaged. She joined the Catholic Young Workers. She was appointed chief of press and propaganda of the national body, a voluntary position which she held for two years.
In March 1961 Moreno came to Sydney with Operación Marta, a migration scheme for single Spanish women. Her younger sister had emigrated the previous year under the same scheme, which reinforced an earlier agreement bringing Spanish men to the cane-fields of Queensland. Although she had intended to stay only two years in Australia, she ultimately made Sydney her home. Upon her arrival, she worked as domestic help in the homes of well-to-do families, and then as a cleaner in public schools, during which time she was elected union representative. On 7 December 1963 at St Francis de Sales Catholic Church, Surry Hills, she married Juan Otaegui, a fellow Spaniard. Juan worked as a fitter and turner, and would co-found the Basque Club of Sydney.
Like many migrants, Otaegui felt keenly that ‘loneliness is the order of the day’ (Moreno 1961): adapting to life in Sydney and learning English was difficult, and she missed the culture of her homeland. It was this common struggle that gave rise to the idea of a social club for Spanish migrants. The Spanish Club of Sydney opened its Liverpool Street premises in October 1962, and in recognition of her role in bringing this dream to fruition she was assigned membership card number 1; she was later elected, on multiple occasions, president of the club. She was proud of the equal rights and responsibilities that men and women shared in the club, noting the significance of this parity in the context of immigrant organisations generally, and particularly in a Spanish culture that was ‘marked by machismo’ (García 1987, 3).
The club was a hub of activity and community in central Sydney, with numerous members. On its thirtieth anniversary, Otaegui proudly wrote: ‘We have ceased to be a small drop of water in Sydney to become a symbol, a small sea which continues to grow and demonstrate each day, in this cosmopolitan and multicultural city … what it means to be Spanish’ (Otaegui 1993, 21). She helped organise the Australian visit of the Spanish royal family in June 1988. The Spanish government appointed her oficial de la Orden de Isabel la Católica (Order of Isabella the Catholic, officer class) in recognition of her services to the Spanish community in Australia.
Otaegui was appointed to the New South Wales Ethnic Affairs Commission in July 1990, and served a three-year term. In this capacity she was involved in introducing an anti-racism project for schools and in other initiatives promoting multiculturalism and the rights of non-English-speaking migrants. She also continued to be an active member of the Spanish Club, co-founding the senior citizens’ branch in 1992, and acting as its first president. The group organised activities for the elderly and, the following year, helped to establish an aged care hostel for Spanish speakers in Rooty Hill.
A devout Catholic her whole life, Otaegui was ‘one hundred percent Spanish in her customs and sentiments’ (Ovidi 1999, 195). She was a charismatic and dominant figure, popular but polarising, and she held her own in an overwhelmingly male leadership culture. Her extended terms as president and committee member of the Spanish club are testament to her influence and work ethic. At the end of 1992, while visiting family in Spain, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Despite being twice operated on, she died on 10 July 1994 at Kogarah, and, after a requiem mass at St Patrick’s Catholic Church, was buried in Botany cemetery, Matraville. Her husband, two sons, and a daughter survived her; one daughter had predeceased her.
García, Ignacio. Interview by the author, 23 May 2016; García, Ignacio. ‘Las Mujeres en el Club: Charlando con Pilar Otaegui, Social Fundadora no. 1.’ El Español en Australia, no. 39 (29 September 1987): 3; García, Ignacio. Operación Canguro: The Spanish Migration Scheme, 1958–1963. Sydney: The Spanish Heritage Foundation, 2002; Kerkyasharian, Stepan. ‘Outspoken Leader of Spanish Expatriates.’ Australian, 27 July 1993, 11; Moreno, Mari-Paz. Nostalgia for the Future: Memoirs 1960–2004. Edited and translated by Marisa Cano. Sydney: M. P. Moreno, 2004; Moreno, Pilar. Letter to Concha Rico, 29 April 1961. Private collection. Otaegui, Michelle. Interview by the author, 23 January 2016; Otaegui, Pilar. ‘Ante un Trigésimo Aniversario.’ Boletín del Club Español de Sídney, April 1993, 20–21; Ovidi, M. P. ‘In Memoriam: Pilar Moreno De Otaegui.’ In The Spanish Experience in Australia, edited by Carmen Castelo, 101–2. Jamison Centre, ACT: The Spanish Heritage Foundation, n.d.; Ovidi, Mari Paz. ‘Pilar Moreno de Otaegui: In Memoriam (1935–1994).’ In Memories of Migration: Seminar Proceedings, University of Western Sydney Macarthur, 4 & 5 September 1998, edited by Ignacio García and Agustín Maraver, 193–5. Jamison Centre, ACT: The Spanish Heritage Foundation, 1999; Rico, Concha. ‘A Veteran of “Operation Marta”.’ In The Spanish Experience in Australia, edited by Carmen Castelo, 77–79. Jamison Centre, ACT: The Spanish Heritage Foundation, n.d.; Trevin, Concha. Interview by the author, 20 December 2015.
OVERDUIN, DANIEL CHRISTIAAN (1929–1992), clergyman and bioethicist, was born on 18 December 1929 at Rotterdam, the Netherlands, eldest of seven children of Jacobus Overduin, furniture-maker, and his wife Jannetje, née van Gelder. Although his education was disrupted by the German occupation, Daniel gained a certificate in bookkeeping, and was employed as a clerk with a trading company and then a school. Between 1949 and 1951 he undertook military service, and then worked for a shipping company (1951–57). He married Janna Adriaantje Surrland on 30 January 1952. After training in theology, in 1958 he was ordained in a conservative Calvinist group, the Gereformeerde Bonders, and appointed pastor at Sliedrecht.
In 1961 Overduin was dismissed for committing adultery with a member of his congregation (De Ryke, pers. comm.). Accepting an invitation from the ecumenist Dr Hermann Sasse [q.v.Supp], he migrated to Australia in 1962 with his family. After further study at Immanuel Lutheran Seminary, North Adelaide, he was ordained to the ministry of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church on 6 January 1963. He became an Australian citizen in 1968.
Overduin was pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church at Albert Park from 1964 to 1977. He was given a year’s leave in 1971 to study at the Catholic Theological Faculty of Sydney at St Patrick’s College, Manly, and became the first non-Catholic to graduate there (STL, 1973; STD summa cum laude, 1976). While his theses were on the moral theology of marriage, he had already begun to specialise in the emerging field of bioethics. This interest intensified in response to proposals for liberalising the law prohibiting abortion in South Australia. Convinced that human life should be treated as beginning at conception, in 1969 he helped to establish the Human Life Research Foundation. Despite its efforts to lobby politicians, a bill permitting abortion in certain circumstances was passed by the State parliament in December.
Three months later, Overduin formed the Right to Life Association and became its executive director. A gifted orator, he energised people at meetings and street marches, calling for stricter limitations on the circumstances permitting abortion, yet he sought to dissuade supporters from picketing or attacking clinics. He played a key role in inaugurating a national RTLA in August, and was elected its senior vice-president. In 1972 he founded Birthline, a South Australian pregnancy support group with trained volunteer counsellors. As an independent, on a ‘pro-life’ platform, he unsuccessfully contested the seat of Henley Beach in the 1973 South Australian general election. In 1979 he was co-founder of the Federation of Pro-Life Pregnancy Support Services in Australia Inc.
Released from parochial duties in 1976, Overduin taught at Concordia Lutheran seminary in St Louis, Missouri. On returning the next year, he was employed at the Lutheran Church of Australia’s (LCA) headquarters in Adelaide. He was a part-time lecturer at the Lutheran Seminary and Teachers’ College, an executive member of the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations, and was involved in ecumenical dialogue with the Roman Catholic, Uniting, and Reformed churches in Australia. Chairing his denomination’s Commission on Social Questions until 1991, he was then designated special executive officer to its renamed Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions.
A prolific writer, Overduin authored thirteen of the LCA’s statements on abortion, euthanasia, reproductive technology, the rural crisis, AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), and other socio-moral issues. With the support of the church, he founded and became principal research officer of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer International Institute for Bioethical Studies, North Adelaide, for which he produced sixteen study booklets. In 1987 he was appointed, additionally, adjunct director of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute at Plympton. He had been elected a member of the American Fertility Society (1985) and remained active in several international bodies that advocated a conservative stance on ethical-legal and medical-legal problems. Two of his books, Wake up, Lucky Country! (1980) and Life in a Test-Tube (1982), were written jointly with John Fleming, then an Anglican priest. They criticised the secular humanism that fostered developments which upset some Christians, including changes to the laws governing marriage and divorce, and experimentation on human embryos.
Described by a colleague as ‘a tireless worker with immense drive, dedication and enthusiasm’ (Schmidt 1992, 4), Overduin made enormous demands on those willing to help him. He retained his Dutch accent and, in later life sporting a magnificent mane of white hair, was always well-dressed. A heavy smoker, he died of myocardial infarction on 23 July 1992 in Adelaide, survived by his wife, three of his four sons, a daughter, and a Vietnamese orphan girl he and Janna had adopted in the 1970s. After a service at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Adelaide, he was buried in Centennial Park cemetery.
Brixius, R. A., ed. Euthanasia—A New World Order?: Essays in Honour of the Late Dr D. Ch. Overduin, 1929–1992. Adelaide: Dietrich Bonhoeffer International Institute for Bioethical Studies, 1993; De Ryke, Caas. Personal communication; Lutheran Archives. Bowden, South Australia. Overduin, Daniel. Papers; National Archives of Australia. A446, Overduin, Daniel Christiaan; Schmidt, Jan. ‘Obituary: Reverend Dr Daniel Christiaan Overduin.’ Life News (Adelaide), August 1992, 25; Warhurst, John. ‘Politics and Moral Issues: The 1973 South Australian Elections.’ Flinders Journal of History and Politics 4 (1974): 1–11.
P. A. Howell