Skip to main content

Sir Robert Gibson

1863 – 1934

Sir Robert Gibson GBE (1863-1934) trained in design and drafting in Glasgow, where he began work as a designer at an iron company; he soon became manager of its London office. In 1890 he sailed for Melbourne, where he worked as a draughtsman and designer, saving much of what he earned. In the late 1890s he established the Austral Manufacturing Co, making hospital beds, and then the Lux Foundry Pty Ltd, making fuel stoves, metal grates, baths and other products. Rising to a senior position in the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, by World War I he was a man of means and his advice was sought on many issues. He persuaded the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures to establish its own insurance company of which he was chairman from 1914 to 1928. He was nominated as Victorian representative on the Central Coal Board in 1916, was a member of the short-lived Luxuries Board in 1917, and deputy chairman of the original Repatriation Commission from 1917 to 1920. As chairman of the royal commission on public expenditure from 1918 to 1921 he gained publicity for his forthright criticism of waste and inefficiency in the public service. He joined the Victorian State Electricity Commission in 1919; he worked harmoniously with Monash and remained a commissioner until his death. He was the Commonwealth government's representative on the board of Commonwealth Oil Refineries from 1920. He also served on the boards of the National Mutual Life Association, the Union Trustee Co., and Robert Harper & Co. With his close friend and medical adviser, Julian Smith, he helped create the Victorian Salon of Photography in the 1920s. For a time he was a member of the Council of the University of Melbourne.

Updated 2018