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Sir Robert Gibson
, 1934

by Paul Montford

cast bronze on granite base

Sir Robert Gibson GBE (1863–1934), businessman and financier, came to Australia in 1890 having worked as a designer and manager for a steel company in Glasgow and London. In Melbourne, he established the Austral Manufacturing Co and then the Lux Foundry Pty Ltd, and in 1922 became president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, Gibson served on a number of boards and was consulted on industrial and economic issues. Appointed Victoria’s representative on the Central Coal Board in 1916, he was deputy chairman of the Repatriation Commission from 1917 to 1920; chairman of the royal commission on public expenditure from 1918 to 1921; a member of the State Electricity Commission from 1919; and a representative on the board of Commonwealth Oil Refineries from 1920. In 1926, Gibson became Chairman of the Board of the Commonwealth Bank (then Australia’s central bank). This role later brought him into conflict with Labor Prime Minister, James Scullin, whose 1931 request for increased credit for unemployment relief was refused by Gibson. Gibson was alternately celebrated and vilified for his stand, and the controversies of the early 1930s gravely affected his health. He died in Melbourne in January 1934.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of The Australian Industry Group, 2012
Accession number: 2012.52