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William Refshauge interviewed by Terry Colhoun [sound recording]
Bib ID 1897835
Format AudioAudio, OnlineOnline [sound recording]
Refshauge, William, Sir, 1913-2009, Interviewee
Online Versions
Access Conditions Access open for research, personal copies and public use. 
Description 2000 
8 sound discs (CD-R) (ca. 750 min.) 

Sir William Refshauge, public health administrator, speaks of his early life in Melbourne; his father's early retirement; his brothers and himself all working to supplement the family income; following his father's death his mother buying a small farm on the outskirts of Melbourne, his education on a half scholarship to Scotch College; attending Melbourne University and graduating with a medical degree; while a resident at Alfred Hospital war breaking out; joining the AIF as a CMF medical officer; seeing action in North Africa with the 2/2 Field Regiment and later moving to northern Greece but being forced back by the German Army; being wounded in an air raid in Crete; later the regiment was evacuated to Alexandria; moving to Syria where he took charge of a hospital where he treated the local prostitutes for VD and so incidence of VD dropped amongst the local soldiers; on his return to Australia marrying Helen Allwright, a nursing sister; continuing with Army service with the 2/2 Field Ambulance in PNG; later being posted with the 2/8 Field Ambulance to support the invasion of Borneo.

Refshauge talks about his return to civilian life and his decision to specialise in obstetrics and gynaecology; his studies at Melbourne Women's Hospital where he contributed to the invention of a travelling unit for premature babies; when the Korean War broke out he returning to the Army as Deputy Director of Medical Services and succeeding Kinsley Norris as the Director General (DGMS); assisting in the establishment of the Army School of Health at Healesville, Vic. and eventually adopting a system of training and recruiting medical officers; the cooperation between the Allied medical services during the Korean War; his attendance at nuclear testing sites of Bikini and Einiwetok; not being consulted during the Maralinga tests in South Australia where he would have insisted on greater protective measures; on retiring from the DGMS being appointed as the Commonwealth Director General of Health; the introduction of the pharmaceutical benefits sheme and the medical benefits that preceded Medicare, his chairing of the National Health and Medical Research Council, his representation of Australia in the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Refshauge explains why he delayed chairing a meeting of the World Health Assembly, on retiring from Dept. of Health, becoming Secretary-General of the World Medical Association and instigating the move of the Secretariat from Paris to Geneva to work closer with the office of the WHO, rewriting the Helsinki Declaration of Ethics for WHO but eventually resigning because of the lack support from his board; his interest in alcohol and drug addiction where he advocates general education of the community and stronger rehabilitation methods; his service as a patron of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War and a committee member of the Menzies Foundation; his personal admiration of Menzies; his long membership of the Returned Services League of Australia (RSL); becoming a National Trustee in 1977, his knowledge of RSL activities and his views of its various office-bearers, his views of women and homosexuals in the Armed Forces.


Born in Melbourne in 1913, William Dudley Refshauge attended Scotch College then University of Melbourne graduating in medicine. He served in the AIF and the medical corps during World War II. Specialising in gynaecology at Melbourne's Royal Women's Hospital, he became the Deputy-Director (1951) thent the Director General (1955-60) of Army Medical Services. An able and energetic administrator, he was Commonwealth Director General of Health (1960-73) while chairing the National Fitness Council, the National Tuberculosis Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council. He chaired the World Health Organisation's Executive Board (1969-1970) and was Secretary General of the World Medical Association (1973-1976).


Recorded on Feb. 9, 2000 in Canberra, A.C.T.

Also available online

Index/Finding Aid Note Timed summary available (3 p.) and uncorrected transcript (typescript, 104 leaves) 
Subjects Refshauge, William, Sir, 1913-2009 -- Interviews.  |  World Health Organization -- Administration.  |  Australia. Department of Health -- Administration.  |  Returned Services League of Australia.  |  Physicians -- Australia -- Interviews.
Other authors/contributors Colhoun, Terry, 1924-, Interviewer

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