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William Thomas (Bill) Divers (1896–1978)

This article was published:

Bill Divers, n.d.

Bill Divers, n.d.

William Thomas George (Bill) Divers (1896-1978) seaman, trade union official, mayor and parliamentarian 

Birth: 1 September 1896 in Collingwood, Victoria, son of native-born parents William Clinton Divers (1874-1952), brushmaker, and Annie May, née Cozens (1874-1964). Marriages: (1) 1925 in Victoria to Ethelwynne Jane Bowen (1904-1992), who was born at Potchefstroom, South Africa. They had one daughter and one son and divorced on 9 May 1955. (2) 5 November 1955 at Wesley Church Melbourne, to native-born widow Lorna Jean née Forbes, late Peters (1914-1983), nursing sister. Death: 29 June 1978 at Footscray, Melbourne, Victoria. Religion: Anglican. 

  • Educated at Collingwood state school. Childhood stage appearances with Her Majesty’s Theatre and interstate touring company.
  • Worked at MacRobertsons 1909-1910, as helper on cart deliveries. Was dismissed after seeking wage increase.
  • Served in the merchant navy from 1910 to 1914, and from 1918 to 1920, including two years in Canada with millionaire C.W. Busk.
  • Served in the Royal Australian Navy 1914-1918, gunlayer 3rd class, surviving sinking.
  • Rigger with Melbourne City Council, later inspector of hackney carriages. Organiser, Municipal Employees’ Union, 1925. Industrial officer, 1928-1946; Trades Hall Council delegate. Prominent in anti-sweating campaign. Appointed Justice of the Peace.
  • Enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 29 June 1942 and served in the South West Pacific from January 1943 to April 1944. Involved in air sea rescue; a navigating coxswain; promoted sergeant in New Guinea in February 1944. Discharged on 3 October 1945.
  • General Secretary, MEU from 1946 to 1958. Federal vice president from 1948 to 1953 and Federal president from 1953 to 1958.
  • Member of Australian Labor Party federal executive from 1955 to 1965. Essendon city councillor from 1932 to 1946 and mayor in 1936-1937.
  • Member of Victorian Legislative Assembly for Footscray from 8 October 1958 to 18 May 1970. Served on the Public Accounts Committee 1961 to 1967, and the House Committee 1964-1967.
  • Freemason.

Geoff Browne, Biographical register of the Victorian Parliament, 1900-84 (Melbourne, 1985); Recorder, August 1978; The Counsellor, March 1954, No 4 1958, June 1971; A Best, 1986.

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'Divers, William Thomas (Bill) (1896–1978)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 July 2024.

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