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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bakewell, Robert Donald (Don) (1899–1982)

by Hugh S. Beggs

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Robert Donald (Don) Bakewell (1899-1982), pastoralist and organiser of wool-growers, was born on 9 September 1899 at Unley Park, Adelaide, son of South Australian-born parents Edward Howard Bakewell, stock and station agent and later pastoralist, and his wife Octavia Eleanor, née Wilson. Educated at Kyre (Scotch) College, Adelaide, where he was dux and captain of the school, Don worked as a clerk with Goldsbrough Mort & Co. Ltd. In October 1918 he en­listed in the Australian Imperial Force but the war ended next month and he did not serve abroad. By 1922 he was overseer of Yalkuri station at Narrung. On 29 April 1929 at St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, he married, with Anglican rites, Ydonea Ridley Dale, an art student. Moving to Victoria about six years later, he was managing director in 1935-73 of Farnley Grazing Pty Ltd, a family farming enterprise near Benalla.

On 9 April 1938 a branch of the Graziers’ Association of Victoria opened at Benalla. That day Bakewell was nominated as the branch’s representative on the association’s council; he was president (1943-46) of the GAV and a trustee, and was to remain on the executive committee until 1978. In 1940 he became a delegate to the two bodies that the State-based grazier organisations financed to represent their interests nationally: the Graziers’ Federal Council of Australia, of which he was a member (to 1950), acting-president (1947) and president (1948-49); and the Australian Wool-growers’ Council, of which he was chairman (1949-54) and a life member (1954).

Knowledgable and hard-working, Bakewell made an enormous contribution to the wool industry. In 1945-59 he served on the Australian Wool Realization Commission, which was responsible for the orderly sale, concurrently with postwar clips, of Australia’s share of the stocks that had accumulated in British Commonwealth countries during World War II. Through clever and careful marketing, the commission disposed of the stockpile while protecting growers from serious falls in prices. Late in the 1940s Bakewell strongly supported Dame Jean Macnamara’s [q.v.10] campaign to resume experiments with myxomatosis as a means of reducing rabbit numbers; the virus was used with good results in the summer of 1950-51. Bakewell was a member of the council of the Chamber of Agriculture of Victoria in 1940-50 and vice-president in 1946-48. He was appointed CMG in 1952.

In 1947 Bakewell had publicly condemned the Chifley government’s proposal to nationalise the banks, arguing that freedom and private enterprise were under attack. Four years later he opposed the Menzies ministry’s reserve price plan for wool, claiming that its real purpose was government control of the industry. Most graziers supported his conservative stance.

Bakewell was a quiet, likeable and helpful man who spent his spare time doing community work, the local volunteer bushfire brigade being a particular interest. He was a keen lawn bowler and earlier had enjoyed tennis and cricket. Survived by his wife and their daughter, he died on 11 July 1982 at Benalla and was buried in the local cemetery with Presbyterian forms.

Select Bibliography

  • F. E. Hitchins, Tangled Skeins (195-)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Nov 1945, p 3, 19 Aug 1947, p 5
  • Bakewell papers (State Library of Victoria)
  • personal knowledge and private information.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Hugh S. Beggs, 'Bakewell, Robert Donald (Don) (1899–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 22 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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