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Brookes, Sir Wilfred Deakin (1906–1997)

by Andrew Dixon

Sir Wilfred Deakin Brookes was born on 17 April 1906 in South Yarra, Melbourne, son of distinguished Victorian born parents Herbert Robinson Brookes, public servant, political activist, pastoralist and company director and his wife Ivy Brookes, feminist, committee woman and philanthropist, eldest daughter of Alfred and Pattie Deakin. Wilfred attended Melbourne Grammar.

His career started at the Australasian Paper and Pulp Co. Ltd. in 1924 as a trainee cadet at the age of seventeen and a half and then a little later he commenced studies in Science at the University of Melbourne. In December 1925 he joined the ‘Citizen Air Force’ as an officer cadet at the RAAF’s station at Point Cook obtaining his ‘wings’ as a pilot officer in April 1926. Subsequently, he returned to work at the paper mills as a pulp and paper technologist.

In 1927 he went abroad to study paper making at Manchester University School of Technology. In 1928 he served briefly with the RAF Reserve in the UK and met and married Bertha (Betty) Heal, youngest daughter of A.H. Heal of Oxton Hall, Birkenhead. They returned to Melbourne in late 1928 where he resumed working for the paper mills and held a number of senior management positions including assistant superintendent of the mills. Their son Clive (Roger) Hele was born in September 1929.

In 1938 Brookes took up the position of Executive Director of the Boxes and Containers Syndicate in which A.P.P.M and A.P.M. were both shareholders. On the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 he was called up for war service in the RAAF and served in Singapore in 1940 and Rabaul in 1941/1942 where he was promoted to Commanding Officer of 24 Squadron in the field. On his return to Australia he was posted to command No. 22 Squadron in Perth, later returning to New Guinea from January 1944 until January 1945. He attained the rank of Group Captain in July 1944. He was awarded the DSO on the 19 October 1945 for his service as commander of the No. 78 Wing from November 1943.

On his demobilisation in September 1945 he returned to his career in paper making and joined the board of A.P.P.M. Upon the death of Sir Walter Massey-Greene in 1952 Brookes served as chairman from 1952 to 1978.

Over the years he served on a wide variety of company boards as a director. In 1947 he was appointed a director of the board of Western Mining Corporation Ltd and also of Central Victoria Dredging. In 1960 he became a director of New Coolgardie Gold Mines, which was part of the Western Mining Group. As a result of a joint venture with a number of companies of the Collins House Group together with ALCOA of the United States ALCOA Australia Ltd was formed to develop the bauxite resources in the Darling Ranges, Western Australia. He served as a director of ALCOA Australia company from 1961 to 1983.

Brookes joined the board of The Colonial Mutual Life Assurance in 1955 and became chairman in 1965 on the retirement of Col. Alan Spowers. He joined the board of Broken Hill South in 1956 and was a director until 1980, and for a shorter period served on the Board of North Broken Hill. He also served as a director and chairman of the Electrolytic Refining & Smelting Company of Australia which operated as part of the Port Kembla industrial complex in NSW. He also served as director of a range of other companies with financial, mining and pastoral interests.

He continued a proud family tradition of service to the community and the Liberal cause. He served the Liberal Party as a Trustee and Finance Committee member. He served as the President of the Institute of Public Affairs from 1971 to 1981, and served as one of the Trustees of the Edward Wilson Trust from 1960 to 1986 and latterly chairman.

Brookes’s wife Bertha (Betty) died in 1968. He was awarded Commander of the British Empire in 1972. He was knighted in 1979 for services to industry and the community. He retired from most of his company positions in 1978 and on his retirement became chairman (later patron) of the Deakin University Foundation and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by Deakin University on 26th May 1982.

Sir Wilfred Brookes died on 1st August 1997 at Camberwell, Melbourne, survived by his son Clive (Roger) Hele Brookes.


  • Australia in the War of 1939-1945. Series Three. AIR. Volume I. Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942. Canberra, Australian War Memorial. Adelaide, The Griffin Press. 1962.
  • Australia in the War of 1939-1945. Series Three. AIR. Volume II. Air War Against Japan 1943-1945 by Genje Odgers. Canberra, Australian War Memorial. Adelaide, The Advertiser Printing Office. 1957.
  • Blainey, Geoffrey. White Gold: The Story of Alcoa of Australia. Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 1997.
  • Gillison, Douglas. Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1962.
  • Interviews with Clive (Roger) Hele Brookes. May 2014.
  • Sinclair, E.K., The Spreading Tree: a history of APM and Amcor 1844-1989. Allen & Unwin, Australia, 1991.
  • Transcriptions of speeches and personal interviews in family papers.
  • Who’s Who in Australia 1996 XXXII nd edition. Information Australia

Original Publication

  • People Australia, 2 September 2020

Additional Resources

Citation details

Andrew Dixon, 'Brookes, Sir Wilfred Deakin (1906–1997)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 October 2020.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012