February 12, 2018
The South Burnett has lost another towering figure in local government with the death on Sunday night of former Murgon Shire Chairman and then Mayor, Bill Roberts OBE.
Bill served on Murgon Council for 30 years but was also a successful local businessman, an energetic community volunteer and the man behind what became Australia’s longest-running newspaper column, Hub Rattles.
He was an enthusiastic chronicler of everything positive that happened in the Murgon area, always snapping photos for posterity at events.
He also worked hard to ensure the area’s past, particularly Murgon’s World War II history, would never be forgotten.
George William Roberts – better known as Bill – was born on April 22, 1925, to George Burnett Roberts and his wife Vera Alice Wright.
He attended Murgon State School and Brisbane Boys’ College, but left in 1942 aged 15.
After a year at Queensland University, Bill joined the RAAF where he worked with radio and radar units.
At the end of the war, he returned to Murgon and became a clerk in his father’s law firm and accountancy business.
Bill married the love of his life, Mary Cobb, on November 5, 1949.
When his father retired in 1967, Bill opened his own practice as a tax agent in Lamb Street, where he was still working at the age of 90.
He was elected to Murgon Shire Council on March 4, 1970, and was immediately appointed Deputy Chairman.
He was appointed Chairman (Mayor) on May 9, 1972, a position he held until he resigned in 2000.
Over the years, Bill served on many committees and boards, including the Murgon Fire Brigade Board, Local Ambulance Committee, Wide Bay-Burnett Area Consultative Committee, the Fraser Coast South Burnett Tourism Board and the Murgon Business and Development Association.
He was also a foundation member of the Murgon Apex Club and a Murgon Rotarian of many years standing.
On December 31, 1979, Bill was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to Local Government, and in 2001 was presented with the Centenary Medal.
In 2012, a small footbridge on the outskirts of the Murgon CBD was named in his honour.
The event was attended by South Burnett councillors, former Murgon Shire councillors, local business owners, friends, family and people who had worked with Bill over the years.
Two years later, Bill had his named affixed to another spot in Murgon … this time reflecting his long involvement and friendships with the nearby Cherbourg community.
Murgon State School’s Parent Group Building was jointly dedicated to Bill and former Cherbourg Elder, the late Joe Button.
At the time, Parent Liaison Officer Vera Sullivan, the daughter of Joe, said her father would have been proud and honoured to have his name beside Bill’s on the plaque.
She said Joe and Bill worked together and would visit each others’ homes for tea and a chat.
“He’d love this because Bill was a great friend,” Vera said. “They were like brothers.”
At the 2014 South Burnett Australia Day awards, Bill was presented with the Lifetime Achievement award by Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington.
The award recognised an individual who had made significant contributions to the South Burnett Region over the course of a lifetime, truly summing up Bill’s legacy.
Bill is survived by his wife Mary and three children: Scott, Kay and Swain, nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
His funeral service will be held at Murgon Town Hall on Monday, February 19, from 12:30pm. In lieu of flowers, donation envelopes for the Queensland Dairy and Heritage Museum will be available at the door.