I regret to advise the death, yesterday, of Ray Evans, the president of the society from 1989 to 2010 and one its notable founders.
John Stone, another founder of the society and the founding president, has kindly recalled Ray for us:
On 30 April, 1985 the Committee of Review of Australian Industrial Relations (the Hancock Committee) delivered its Report, and shortly thereafter Ray Evans, whom I had never previously met, got in touch with me. Along with Peter Costello and Barry Purvis, we formed the HR Nicholls Society.
The central proposal of the Hancock Report was to establish a new so-called Labour Court, to transfer to that trumped-up body all cases in the industrial relations jurisdiction, and to staff it with members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
It was this monster that the Society, led by Ray, set out (successfully) to confront.
In 1989 Ray assumed the Presidency of the Society, and held that post for an extraordinary 21 years.
The Charles Copeman Medal, which was awarded to Ray at the end of that time, is awarded for distinguished service in the cause of industrial relations, but Ray’s service to the public good ranged much more widely than industrial relations. I mention only his major roles in The Samuel Griffith Society, The Galatians Group, The Lavoisier Group and The Bennelong Society to indicate the variety, and the institutional significance, of his interests and the remarkable contribution he made to public policy debate in Australia.
Ray was however much more than a public intellectual. He was first and foremost a man – possessed of all those manly virtues of which one of his heroes, Margaret Thatcher, spoke.
He was widely read, and his writings were steeped in the imagery of the King James Bible, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, The Pilgrims Progress, and other great parts of the literary canon. Always “valiant for the truth”, it was appropriate that when the Charles Copeman Medal was bestowed upon him, the citation inscribed thereon read as follows:
“RAY EVANS: In recognition of his unparalleled contribution to public policy discourse in Australia, including (but not confined to) his central part in the formation of the HR Nicholls Society and its role throughout the 25 years of its existence. A rock of constancy in a sea of corporate cowardice, he has always placed principle above personal advancement. A steadfast friend and an honourable opponent, he is epitomized in John Bunyan’s everlasting words: ‘Who would true valour see,/Let him come hither;/One here will constant be,/Come wind, come weather’”.
As we mourn a dear friend and great companion, our hearts go out to Jill and his children.
Through the HR Nicholls Society Ray Evans was the champion of freedom of employment. Ray was the well read academic, the engineer, the mining company executive, the man of faith. He was a most considerate and kind president of the society. For a quarter century and using these talents Ray directed Australia to freer and thus more prosperous and fulfilling employment relations.
With all members of the society I offer Jill and his children our sincere condolences.