Who was TL Robertson?
Robertson Library on the Bentley campus of Curtin University is named after Thomas Logan Robertson – a man who was the driving force behind the 1966 establishment of the Western Australian Institute of Technology (WAIT), which later became Curtin University of Technology.
Thomas Robertson was born in London in 1901. In 1905 his family migrated to Australia and settled in Kalgoorlie. He was educated in Kalgoorlie and Perth, and in 1919 started his teaching career. He taught at Claremont, Geraldton, Busselton and Bridgetown while studying part-time at the University of Western Australia. In 1927, he married another schoolteacher, Marion Gibson.
In 1938 ‘Blue’ Robertson won a Carnegie Scholarship to study for a PhD at the University of London. Returning to Western Australia in 1939, he completed his thesis while teaching at country schools and was promoted to inspector of schools in Northam two years later. He served in the Army Education service from 1942 to 1945, and became the assistant director of the Commonwealth Office of Education in 1946.
Director of education in Western Australia
In 1951, Robertson was appointed director of education in Western Australia, re-organising and modernising the state’s education. His political acumen helped push the case for Commonwealth funding for schools, and he was a founding member of the Australian College of Education. Robertson was a delegate to UNESCO conferences from 1961 to 1964, and was aware of the growing significance of the Indian Ocean region for Western Australia both economically and culturally.
Following his retirement in 1966, Robertson chaired the interim councils of WAIT and the Canberra College of Advanced Education. In 1967 he was president of the Australian Council for Educational Research and was appointed a CMG in 1969.
Robertson died on 21 August 1969 in Perth. He was a man who accomplished much for education in Western Australia, and we are proud that the Library is named after him. A bust of ‘Blue’ Robertson is in the entrance of the Library building and a plaque commemorating his time as chair of the WAIT council can be seen in the walkway of the Forum.
Pike, D. 2002, Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.
White, M. 1999. Thomas Logan Robertson 1901-1969: A Biographical Study. Library & Information Service, Curtin University of Technology, Bentley.