Bill Robbins, who had been suffering from cancer, died on Christmas Eve. Bill was one of the earliest, most enthusiastic and popular members of AIRAANZ. He embodied the best of academia: he was a good scholar, careful and measured in his approach, and at the same time deeply committed to, and passionate about, his many areas of research expertise. His work was never an exercise in abstraction: he wrote clearly and concisely for the lay readership as well as for his peers; he was active in the NTEU and AIRAANZ. He was a good teacher and he was a thoroughly decent person. He also had an extraordinary range of interests and commitments in his local community. We are the better for having worked with him and the poorer for losing him. Two items from the local press make clear just how important he was to that community as well as to all of us in AIRAANZ:
One of the giants of the Australian IR academic scene, Bill Howard, passed away on Sunday evening.
Bill was responsible for founding the IR discipline at MonashUniversity, and was the editor and co-author of a seminal textbook on Australian IR, which had numerous editions.
Bill completed his PhD in IR at Cornell University, and was a great admirer of the way US unions fought and struggled to conduct collective bargaining, without the state support provided in Australia under compulsory arbitration, which, in his view, resulted in Australian
unions becoming dependent upon the state for their very existence. His 'dependency thesis', is one still adhered to by many IR academics today.
One of Bill's outstanding legacies will be the work he wrote of the life of Shorty O'Neil, the long-time head of the Barrier Industrial Council (or 'Workers Soviet') in Broken Hill.
Bill was a fierce debater and 'rough diamond' who proudly wore the badge of 'maverick' throughout his esteemed career. In the Australian vernacular he had the great habit of calling 'a spade a spade'.
Though he had his detractors, in academic circles, he also had a legion of admirers (this author being one) and his forthrightness and willingness to cut straight to the point - while around him others pontificated and unnecessarily complicated issues - will be sadly missed.
More than anything, however, Bill was an extremely warm hearted and generous individual, who would go out of his way to help those seeking assistance. The courage, passion and love for his family, especially
his devotion to his severely mentally and physically disabled daughter, was an inspiration for all of us who knew this wonderful man.
Dr Bruce Hearn Mackinnon
Head of Management
School of Management and Marketing
Faculty of Business and Law
Ph: (61) 043 7007 901
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