Dr Thomas Logan Robertson
1901 – 1969
Dr Thomas Logan (‘Blue’) Robertson is remembered as one of the most important people in Western Australian education history. He held the position of Director General of Education from 1951 to 1966, during which time he reorganised secondary schooling, initiated curriculum reforms and worked with George Hayman and Haydn Williams to convince the state government that WAIT should be established.
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, 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, before becoming Director General of Education in 1951.
When first approached by George Hayman in 1950 on the issue of building a technological institution in WA, Robertson was unimpressed, dismissing Hayman’s research as ‘guess-work, half-truths and wild conjecture’. Over the years, however, he grew more convinced of the need for such an institution, especially in light of the extreme overcrowding at Perth Technical College. He went on to work closely with Hayman and was responsible for convincing the Western Australian government of the need for better technical education in the state. His efforts culminated with the approval for the establishment of WAIT in 1960.
After his retirement from government in 1966, he remained deeply involved with the development of WAIT, acting as Chairman of the Council until his untimely death in September 1969. The WAIT library was opened in 1971 and named the Robertson Library in recognition of the vital role Robertson played in the establishment of WAIT. A bust of Robertson still features at the entrance to the library.
In the foreword to Michael White’s Thomas Logan Robertson: A Biography, influential former State Premier Charles Court stated Robertson “passionately believed in the role of education to better the lives of individuals and to enable individuals, communities, states and nations to achieve their true potential”.
Curtin has recognised his work with the naming of:
White, Michael. 1996. WAIT to Curtin: A History of the Western Australian Institute of Technology. Perth: Paradigm Books Curtin University.
Birman, Wendy. 2005. Hayman, William George Inglis (1897 – 1968), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.