Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Creative Arts


The Australian Broadcasting Commission was established as a broadcaster but also assumed an entrepreneurial role as a founder and manager of orchestras and a presenter of concerts. For many years it was Australia’s major national provider of professional orchestras and of concerts.

This doctoral thesis investigates the origins of the ABC in the history of Australian music and Australian broadcasting, and explores its involvement in orchestral management and public concert giving. It poses the question whether this dimension of the ABC’s activities was inevitable, and it traces the development of this role through the personalities and cultural aspirations of those who shaped the ABC’s origins and early years. It provides a detailed study of the steps in the evolution of orchestras and concerts connected with the ABC. Existing histories deal with the ABC primarily as a broadcaster.

My sources include the personal papers of founders of the ABC, including Herbert Brookes and William James Cleary, the latter supplemented by oral history interviews with Cleary’s daughter. For ABC General Manager Sir Charles Moses, I was given access to personal papers and recorded interviews, both in private hands.

My research focus is institutional, emphasising policy and administrative matters. Reference to Commission deliberations and records of ABC management brings considerable reinterpretations. Rather than a gradual and uninterrupted growth of ABC orchestras and concerts, uncertainty is revealed about what musical policy should be. I show that there were divisions within the Commission, broadly on Melbourne-Sydney lines, about music policy, but also complex organisational and personal dynamics.

I argue that much in the early hesitations and then the emergence of a new music policy in the ABC in 1932–4 was due to Brookes and Heinze protecting the interests of the orchestra with which they were associated, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. The policy they persuaded the Commission to adopt was that the ABC should collaborate with existing orchestral organisations, using its studio orchestras to augment other orchestras, in return for broadcast rights to their concerts.

The thesis argues that this uncertainty about orchestras did not hold back the ABC’s increasing commitment to concerts, which brought complaints of unfair competition from private entrepreneurs. Its concert activity led the ABC to commit, in 1935–6, to enlarging its studio orchestras and making them the core of symphonic concert orchestras under ABC management.

I demonstrate that the rationalisation of ABC policy happened under the Chairmanship of Cleary from June 1934 on, and under Cleary’s protégé Charles Moses, whom he persuaded the Commission to appoint General Manager in 1935. A legacy of these two men was the ABC symphony orchestras and the ABC Concert Division in the form in which they remained a major commitment of the ABC for the next sixty years. I show how the leadership of Cleary and Moses, and especially their inspiring passion for classical music, fostered high standards, and encouraged the ABC’s entrepreneurial development of its audience for concerts. The model these men provided influenced other managers, while the organised bureaucratic systems which became characteristic of the ABC were pioneered in concert management.