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William Robert Charles (Bob) Jay (1911–1994)

by Russell Mathews

Mr William Robert Charles (Bob) Jay, who played a major role in the development of accounting and public finance courses in the University in the 1960s and 1970s, and who became Deputy Director of the Centre for Research on Federal Financial Relations (now the Federalism Research Centre) when it was established in 1972, died on 1 April 1994 at the age of 83. Much of his life had been spent in pioneering activities in the Commonwealth Public Service and the Australian National University.

Jay graduated from the University of Queensland in 1933 with an honours degree in history; he was also awarded a university blue for athletics. (He maintained an interest in athletics and after World War II organised athletics meetings in Canberra for many years). His first job was with the Queensland Main Roads Board but later he went back to the University as research assistant and part-time lecturer in economic history; in 1938 he also completed a Commerce degree.

During World War II, he took up an appointment as Economist with the Commonwealth Prices Branch. In 1948 he moved to the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (now the Australian Bureau of Statistics), where he worked with others on the development of a national income accounting system for Australia. This was a project of great importance, since it provided the economic and financial data which the Commonwealth Government needed in order to apply the newly accepted Keynesian policies to the task of achieving post-war economic stability and full employment. Jay's particular role was that of designing and constructing the accounts of Commonwealth, State and local governments as well as those of their business undertakings.

In 1958 Jay moved to the Loans and Investment Branch of the Commonwealth Treasury, where he was concerned with the management of Australian and overseas borrowing programs. By the time he took up a University appointment as Senior Lecturer in the new Department of Accounting and Public Finance in 1965, Jay had become the leading authority on the accounts and financial statistics of the Australian public sector, a position which he consolidated through his academic research during the next 15 years at the University.

Previous experience as a part-time lecturer at the University of Queensland and Canberra University College was put to good use by Jay in developing and teaching new courses in government accounting and public finance. He was appointed to a readership in 1967 and continued in that capacity until his retirement in 1975. During this period he co-authored two important books : Government Accounting in Australia —A Book of Readings in 1968 and Federal Finance in 1972. The latter quickly became and has remained the standard reference work on the development of intergovernmental relations in Australia since federation.

When he became Deputy Director of the Centre for Research on Federal Financial Relations in 1972, Jay had to balance his half-time appointment in the Centre with ongoing lecturing responsibilities in the Department, but he enjoyed this period of his academic life and made a significant contribution to the research output of the Centre, being especially helpful to its numerous Visiting Fellows from overseas. After his retirement, he became a Visiting Fellow himself and continued his work on public sector financial statistics as well as his lectures on government accounting.

As a committed and practising Christian in the true sense of the word, Jay's interests outside the Public Service and the University were concentrated on the Anglican Church. He was active in Canberra parish churches and the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn. As well as guiding the finances of the Diocese, he was for many years a member of the Synod and of the Diocesan Council. He also served as a member and chairman of the Board of the Canberra Grammar School and as a member of the Board of Management of the University Union.

In all these activities, Jay won the admiration and affection of his colleagues for his professionalism and his generous personal qualities. His colleagues were his friends. He is survived by his wife, Wendy, five children, three stepchildren and many grandchildren.

Original publication

Citation details

Russell Mathews, 'Jay, William Robert Charles (Bob) (1911–1994)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]




1 April, 1994 (aged ~ 83)

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.