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Sir William Gaston Walkley
, 1958

by William Pidgeon

oil on canvas (frame: 99.0 cm x 84.0 cm, support: 76.5 cm x 61.0 cm)

Sir William Gaston Walkley CBE, oil company director, served in World War 1 before setting up an accountancy practice in the farming district of Hawera in his native New Zealand. In 1931 Walkley co-founded the Associated Motorists' Petrol Co., which was established partly in protest against the petrol prices charged by foreign oil companies. Walkley moved to Sydney in 1935 to join the newly-formed Australian arm of this company which was to become Ampol Petroleum and which later merged with Caltex Australia Ltd. Audacious and ebullient, Walkley campaigned against petrol rationing during World War 2 and later used his significant influence to gain exclusive rights for oil exploration in Western Australia, believing that Australia's progress was hampered by its dependency on oil imports. Walkley was enthusiastic about development and encouraging investment in industry and other enterprises, in 1961 claiming that Australia was 'under-populated and under developed'. He was a keen supporter of sport and was involved in organisations including the Surf Life Saving Association and the Australian Soccer Federation. Walkley actively courted journalists and, in appreciation of the media's support for his business efforts, he endowed the annual Walkley Awards for journalism in 1956. Walkley retired as Managing Director of Ampol in March 1963 but maintained his fundraising work, most notably for the Royal NSW Institution for Deaf and Blind Children. He was appointed a CBE in 1961 and knighted in 1967. He died at Manly in 1976, survived by his wife (and former private secretary) Theresa, whom he had married in 1945.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Caltex Australia Ltd. 2008
Accession number: 2008.45