David Plowman interview, 4 September 2012

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David Plowman interview, 4 September 2012




Winthrop Professor David Plowman (1942-2013) was Foundation Director of the Graduate School of Management at UWA from 1993. During the interview he discusses his experiences of studying at UWA before studying in Melbourne. He talks of the development of his career and work at the University of New South Wales, and about of his return to Western Australia to take on the role of Foundation Professor at the university. He relates his extensive involvement in the fields of Industrial Relations and Organisational Behaviour.
Plowman took on numerous roles at the University of Western Australia including Director of Postgraduate Programs in the UWA Business School and Chair of the Academic Board. He was also a member of the Future Framework Implementation Committee and a member of the Board of Coursework Studies. He speaks at length of the current and future path of the university. He outlines the great changes that he has experienced at the University and reflects on both the positive and negative aspects associated with the University’s development and current world ranking.
A child migrant from Malta, David Plowman was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for his work with the community and the migrant population.


Plowman, David


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


John Bannister


David Plowman


Perth, W.A.


Interview 1: 46 minutes, 53 seconds
Interview 2: 47 minutes, 4 seconds
Interview 3: 46 minutes, 53 seconds
Total: 2 hours, 20 minutes, 50 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Track 1
00:00:00 David Henry John Plowman, born Malta 1942. Background history. Father a teacher. Institutionalised as a child. Coming to Australia. Child migrants. Memories of Tardun and becoming a teacher.
00:03:45 Coming to work and study at University. Arts and Economics degree. Honours and scholar at MA. Memories of the university. Student dynamic. Science of opportunity. Business degree. Significant changes. Industrial relations.
00:07:50 Memories of the mature age student experience. Love for industrial relations. Des Oxnam. Worst lecturer ever experienced. Master’s in Industrial Relations.
00:10:00 Facilities available and disciplined experience. Life in the broad for average student. Lectured by people who are not able to teach. Interesting brilliant blind lecturer Arnold Cook. Reg Appleyard leading professor. Young economists. Indian lecturers.
00:14:00 Atmosphere. Murdoch University. Isolation and the department of economics. Enrolling in honours. Getting first class honours. Eclectic range of things you could do. Micro and macro economics. Course structure. Bachelor of economics. Significant developments. Commerce and economics. Commerce more fragmented.
00:20:50 Physical changes and different buildings. Economics was in the Winthrop tower. Cinderella unit. Comparisons with UWA and Melbourne. Isolation is a benefit to education. University of South Australia. University of New South Wales. Call to come back home.
00:25:00 Comments on University of WA. Isolation. Reputation. Relationships kept up. The small university. Development of personal career. Industrial relations a growing area of study in the 1970s.
00:30:20 Prolific publication. John Nolan Foundation Chair and Dean. Successor. Setting out to make changes. Employment relations. Human Resource Management. Strikes and human industrial relations. Human resources could be whatever you wanted it to be. Growth of the course. Exciting institution. Achievements.
00:34:15 Human resources and the growth of Industrial Relations during the 1970s. Writing the first text book with Steve Deery. Putting on more units as the student numbers grow. Crossing boundaries at the University.
00:37:45 The bubble bursts with Whitlam. Protected economy and tariffs. Unions and managers. Employers and unions and civil action. National prizes. Employment relations. Coming home in 1993. Significant changes. Australian industrial relations. Led from Melbourne and Sydney. Reputation of UWA.
00:43:20 UWA existing rather than flourishing. Economics makes the decisions. John Nobby and the Scottish study. Researching and unfortunate disconnect. Shaking the system along in a non-vibrant situation.

Track 2
00:00:00 Memories of 1993 Director of the school of management. Roy Lourens. Being interviewed for the position. Concerns of the university. Curtin, ECU and Murdoch. MBA. Graduate schools of management. Remit and student numbers. Engaging with the business community. Underfunded by the University.
00:05:30 Problems associated with the running of the school. Parking problems. Frustrations experienced. Memories of the Graduate School of Management. Charging fees. Fragmentation of economics. New departments created. Department of Information and Marketing, Department of Organisational and Labour Studies. Budgetary lines. University an unhappy camp.
00:10:33 Resentment of the Graduate School of Management. Entrepreneurialism works against school. Aims for change and direction. Marketing. The articulated sequence of graduation. MBA a first degree. Restrictions and going overseas. Singapore, Indonesia and Shanghai.
00:14:40 Network creations across Australia. Lack of credits from UWA. Universal recognition of the MBA degrees. Research and recruiting. Doctorate of Business Administration. The guru from the east.
00:17:10 Internationalisation and the big achievements. Opportunity. Mature age. Off-shore orientation. People around the world know of UWA. Concerns over student numbers. Repositioning and restructuring. Picture of UWA with other universities. Don’t take opposition for granted. Curtin and its reputation and transformation. Status.
00:22:40 Comparisons with Curtin – a top institution. Two institutions with different philosophies and competitiveness. Internationalisation of UWA. Travelling overseas and spending time in Singapore. Progress and turnaround.
00:27:30 Growth over the last twenty years. Policy of no growth. Alan Robson. Population and the loss of the students. Increase and diverse students. Buildings the architectural statements.
00:30:50 Community and interfaculty relations. Chairman of the Academic Board. Budget and equality for faculties and departments. Good will of deans. Important people. Memories of Robson and Fay Gale. Paradox of Alan Robson. Loss of respect.
00:37:00 1995 Finance and empowerment. Legal nicety and investment. Significant returns and negative income. Distribution of funds. Large teaching faculties suffer.
00:41:20 Research for betterment of University. Lip service for teaching function of the university. Future framework. Ready for the centenary. When was the university started? What will the courses be like? Course structures. Community involvement. Implementations of ideas and range of courses. Significant changes. Cycle one and two. Future Framework Implementation Committee hardly ever meets. The overseer and less hands-on.

Track 3
00:00:00 Publications, research and the University in the community. Kierath and wages of the poor. Set minimum wage for the state. Eclectic research. Asian business development. Published in the area of Public relations. Setting a minimum – Justice Higgins. Reasonable living conditions and the family wage.
0:05:24 ABS and consumer index. Restructuring an index. Wages in Western Australia. Chair a number of reviews. School for women’s health and sport science. Way of problems coming to the fore. Fascinating way to learn about the university.
00:09:33 Large number of senior appointments. Ad hoc senate member. Medicine. Seeing the university changing. Interfaculty relationships. So many heads at the University. Working for the Chancellery for new courses.
00:14:07 Seeing the direction of the University. Significant leaps and bounds. Current position of the University. Institution as a whole has a lot of pluses. Unravelling the index of university rating system. Good teaching research and integration in the community.
00:19:40 Money and rating as a teaching institution. Narrow basis for rating. Myopic university. External involvement with child migrants and CBERS. Maltese child migrant. Discussing the child migrant system.
00:25:30 Legacy of being a migrant. Margaret Humphreys Trust. CBERS try to bring about remedies. Decision making. Child migrants of Malta.
00:28:30 Exposing this and that. Pay outs for Tardun and Clontarf boys. Getting an apology. Catholic Church. Legal action and redress. Apology is a powerful thing. Girls and boy child migrants. Statues.
00:34:33 Order of Australia and other awards. Fellow Australian institute of Management Senior honorary fellow of Corporate Directors Association of Australia. Helping development of countries. Nominated for awards.
00:39:10 Students then and now. Numbers grow. Students were a lot more carefree. Debating use of technologies. Lectures taped and made available. Different environment. Colombo Plan. Students from all over the world. Staff from overseas. Internationalisation and isolation of university.
00:45:00 Students and electronic technology. Recreation side pushed out of the university. Pressure on staff and students. A fortunate life.



Plowman, David, “David Plowman interview, 4 September 2012,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024, https://oralhistories.arts.uwa.edu.au/items/show/34.