- Series Guide: Bank Governors & Senior Personnel
- Series Guide: Research Department
- Series Guide: London Letters
- Series Guide: Secretary's Department
- Research Guide: Sir Leslie Melville KBE
- Research Guide: Hugh Traill Armitage CMG
- Research Guide: Sir Ernest Cooper Riddle KBE
- Research Guide: The Great Depression
Research Guide: Dr Herbert Cole Coombs
Dr Herbert Cole Coombs – also known as HC Coombs and less formally as ‘Nugget’ – was one of Australia’s most distinguished public servants and economists; he was also an influential and gifted administrator. Coombs was one of several nation-shaping public servants who rose to prominence in the 1940s and 1950s, with his contemporaries including Sir Roland Wilson, Sir John Crawford and Sir Richard Randall.1 His persuasive character and fierce intelligence, coupled with a logical and determined mind, saw him exercise great influence on Australian public life. Coombs’ roles as Director of Rationing and Director-General of Post-War Reconstruction during the 1940s and as Governor of the Commonwealth and Reserve Bank from 1949–19682 gave him a public platform and profile enjoyed by few. He worked closely with successive governments to secure the economic and social advancement of Australia and the prosperity of the Australian people, with a strength being his ability to work effectively with governments regardless of their political status.
From 1944–1945, intellectuals and administrators, including Coombs, advocated for a national university in Canberra, which was enacted in 1946. As a founding father of the Australian National University (ANU), Coombs was a member of the interim council. He was appointed Deputy Chairman from 1951–1959, then Pro-Chancellor in 1959 – a position created especially for him. On his retirement from the Bank in 1968, Coombs became Chancellor of the ANU.
Coombs was a passionate and committed advocate for the advancement of First Nations peoples, including in the areas of land rights, health, and social and economic justice. His connection to and advocacy for First Nations peoples culminated in his first visit to Yirrkala, in East Arnhem Land, in 1968. He was a patron of the arts and a supporter of science, education and conservation. Coombs’ influence extended across all aspects of life in 20th-century Australia, and continues to influence economic thought today.
Early life and education
Herbert Cole Coombs was born on 24 February 1906 in Kalamunda, Western Australia (WA), the second son and child of six (two boys and four girls). At the time of his birth, his English-born father, Frank Coombs, was Stationmaster at Kalamunda. His mother, Rebecca, came from a prominent York (WA) family; she encouraged her children to be well read and have enquiring minds. When Coombs was young, his older brother died, and so as he matured he took on the mantle of eldest child and the responsibilities that entailed.
Due to the expansion of the railways in WA, the Coombs family moved often and Coombs attended several schools during his primary years. In 1919, he won a scholarship to Perth Modern School, where he was described as ‘… a particularly thoughtful and intelligent lad … [who] took a prominent part in sport’.3 He was especially proficient at cricket and was captain of the school cricket team.
Coombs left Perth Modern School in 1923 and became a student teacher at Busselton, WA, before enrolling at Claremont Teachers College. Coombs embraced college life. He enjoyed dancing and was known for his athleticism on the dance floor; he was also remembered for his successes in swimming competitions, tennis and football (Australian Rules), where he played on the wing.4 On receiving his teaching certificate in 1927, Coombs began working as a schoolteacher in the WA wheat belt while studying remotely. After two years, he returned to Perth and combined teaching at various schools with on-campus studies towards a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Western Australia (UWA). Coombs had first studied economics at Teachers College and he enrolled in this subject again at university level, where he studied under the prominent Tasmanian-born economist Professor Edward Shann. At UWA, Coombs was elected President of the Guild of Undergraduates, and was a member of the University Publications Committee and the student newspaper Pelican. Having successfully completed a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours), Coombs graduated with a Master of Arts, with a thesis titled ‘The Development of the Commonwealth Bank as a Central Bank’. The examiners of the thesis were Leslie Melville, who Coombs would later work under at the Commonwealth Bank,5 and Edward Shann.
While completing his studies, Coombs had won a Hackett Scholarship, which awarded him two years of postgraduate study overseas. The University of Cambridge had been his first choice, however, he ultimately chose the London School of Economics (LSE). This was largely because work was easier to find in London, allowing Coombs to work part-time as a teacher to supplement the funds received from the scholarship (which was, at the time, only £150 per year).
On 5 December 1931 – the day he left for England – Coombs married Mary Alice Ross (known as Lallie), whom he had met while attending the Claremont Teachers College, and she accompanied him to London. Coombs was active in student life, and was elected Vice-President of the LSE’s Research Students Association. His lecturers were some of the best-known economists of their day, and included Harold Laski, FA Hayek and Lionel Robbins. Coombs’ interest in economics was intensified by what he saw of the depression in England and in particular the misery he encountered in the slums around London, which he found shocking after the relative prosperity of Western Australia. In 1934, he was awarded a PhD for his thesis on ‘Dominion Exchanges and Central Bank Problems Arising Out of Them’. John Coatman, Professor of Imperial Relations at the University of London, and Sir Cecil Kisch of the India Office and a Director of the Bank of England, were the examiners of his thesis. Professor Coatman, speaking for his co-examiner and himself, noted: ‘We both agreed that Dr Coombs's work merited the distinction of “brilliant”. It was the best thesis which I have so far examined.'6
On his return to Western Australia in 1934, Coombs taught at Perth Boys School and also became a tutor in economics at UWA while searching for a full-time role as an economist.
Early career highlights
Although he had originally hoped for a role at a university, Coombs joined the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in 1935 as Assistant Economist in the Economist’s Department of the Bank. He replaced Wilmott Debenham, the first incumbent of the role, who after her marriage had been required to resign (in line with Bank policy at the time regarding married women). The Economist’s Department had been created in 1931, under the Bank’s first Economist Leslie Melville, largely to undertake research and advise the Bank on economic and financial policy. After examining Coombs’ thesis for his Master’s degree and later meeting him in London while he was studying there, Melville was undecided as to Coombs suitability.7 Nonetheless, Coombs later recalled that ‘… in the second year of my PhD … I got this message through Shann saying that Melville would like to meet me and he set it up [and] during [a] meal they raised the question of whether I would be interested in a job as Melville’s professional support’.8 Coombs accepted the role, and commenced duties with the Bank on 16 August 1935.9
Years later, Coombs reflected on how the depression of the 1930s had affected his decision to accept the position: ‘When I joined the Bank back in 1935, I did it because like many of my generation, I was appalled by the shocking wastes that were associated with the widespread unemployment and economic depression … and from a conviction which many of us had, that to some extent ... unemployment and waste and depression could have been avoided by wiser financial policies and in particular, perhaps wiser central bank policies.’10 Coombs’ experience of the depression saw him view prudent management of the economy as imperative.
Coombs’ time at the Bank coincided with the 1936/1937 Royal Commission into the operations of the monetary and banking systems in Australia, and the recommendations arising out of it. Melville, the Governor Ernest Riddle and others in the Bank were responsible for submissions to the Commission; however, Coombs recalled he had no association with it.11
Coombs’ work at the Bank led to his secondment in October 1939 as the Economist at the Commonwealth Treasury. While in this role, Coombs researched a number of issues, including Australia’s response to the Depression of the 1930s.
Rationing and post-war reconstruction
Coombs was appointed Director of Rationing in 1942 by Prime Minister John Curtin, and from 1943 he was made Director-General of Post-War Reconstruction; a role he held until 1948. His appointment as Director of Rationing was his first public role and represented the beginning of what would be a long and distinguished, but challenging, career in the public service. He was tasked with managing the government’s rationing system and explaining the necessity for it to an often resentful audience. During this time, Coombs developed his skills in negotiation and persuasion, so as to effectively engage with the public, producers, trade unions and retailers. Coombs’ sense of fairness and equality was of paramount importance. He sought to dispel the notion that rationing was being imposed by the government as a means of control – rather, it was for the common good. He also saw rationing as having a direct effect on the government’s war loans and savings programs, which were so important to the war effort. ‘With demand for consumer goods curbed through the rationing system, the loans and savings programs would become an attractive destination for workers’ disposable income. By restricting domestic consumption and selling produce to its allies, Australia would make a significant contribution to the overall war effort and also minimise its trade deficit.’12 While not universally popular at the start, Coombs’ approach saw the successful implementation, and acceptance, of the system throughout Australia; a testament to his skills and tenacity.
On taking up the role of Director-General of Post-War Reconstruction in 1943, Coombs was tasked with the objective of ensuring that the full employment brought about by the war was sustained in peacetime. He addressed a number of issues in this role, including repatriation, the re-establishment of civil retraining of hundreds of thousands of ex-servicemen, the reconversion of Australia’s very considerable war industry to civil production, and plans for the transition of rural production to meet peacetime marketing. Coombs saw the importance of a strong central bank in managing a wartime economy and was an early advocate for an extension of the central banking powers of the Commonwealth Bank. He was a keen follower and admirer of the British economist John Maynard Keynes, whom he met in London in 1943, and embraced Keynes’ policies of greater economic growth, prosperity and lower unemployment through credit expansion. Coombs was one of the authors of the ‘White Paper on Full Employment’, which was published in 1945 under the Prime Ministership of John Curtin.13 Coombs had first taken the Full Employment policy to the Hot Springs Conference (the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture) in the United States in 1943. As a result of the White Paper, the Australian Government declared that it would pursue policies aimed at maintaining full employment. Under Coombs, the Keynesian theories of full employment and prosperity became part of the Charter of the Reserve Bank of Australia, and is still the Bank’s policy today.
Coombs was appointed a member of the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia from 23 October 1942 until the Board was abolished in 1945. He was then appointed to the newly established Advisory Council of the Bank from 1945–1951. Coombs represented Australia at many overseas trade conferences during this time, including the International Trade Organization conferences at Geneva in 1947 and Havana in 1948, and continued to promote internationally and at home the government’s policy regarding full employment as both valid and viable. He also promoted industry and business in Australia and abroad, and in 1955 he was appointed a member of the Business Advisory Group of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, which was set up to advise the federal government on atomic research and development as they affected industry.
Governor of the Commonwealth and Reserve Bank
When it was announced in 1948 by the Labor Government that Coombs was to become Governor of the Commonwealth Bank after the retirement of Hugh Armitage, a career banker, the appointment was not, initially at least, universally welcomed. Many, including Coombs himself, thought Leslie Melville the better person for the job. Coombs expressed a regard and respect for Melville and his intellectual capacity.14 However, he also had a real desire to enact change in society, which he felt could be achieved through the role he had been offered: ‘[W]hen I was invited to become Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in 1949 … this was a period shortly after the war when we all had great hopes, coming after the privations and anxieties of that time, that we would be able to build in Australia a society which was productive, forward looking and above all humane in its treatment of people. And I felt that the Bank, too, had a part to play in building that society and I was proud, therefore, to have a chance as Governor of the Bank to put those theories to the test.’15
At the time of his appointment, Coombs was, at 42 years of age, the youngest person to ever hold the position of Governor. Up until his appointment, he had been an economic adviser to Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley and many assumed Coombs had won the role due to this association and his support for the Labor Government. While Coombs’ world views did closely align with Chifley’s, there were, however, policies on which they did not agree – including the nationalisation of the banking system, which Chifley supported but Coombs did not, as he felt there were enough controls in place to accommodate private banks.16 Coombs’ first term as Governor was for a seven year period commencing 1 January 1949. The Liberal party came to power in December 1949 under Robert Menzies and it was thought that Coombs would be removed by the incoming government, but no move was made to displace him. Menzies came to appreciate Coombs as a man of integrity, with strong, independent views; a consummate public servant and someone he could trust. Coombs led the Bank through the ongoing challenges of post-war Australia to the economic boom years, and his policies to stimulate the economy were credited in part with Australia’s recovery.
In 1951, the Commonwealth Bank Board was reintroduced, along with some changes in the structure of the Board (the Board had been abolished in 1945). Coombs, as Governor, became the Chairman of the Board. On 1 January 1956, Coombs was reappointed Governor of the Bank for a further seven years.
Coombs’ early love of the dramatic arts, which had emerged during his days at Perth Modern School, continued through his support for the arts and theatre, including his role in the creation of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, for which he was Chairman from 1954–1968. As Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, he hosted visiting actors, including internationally acclaimed stars such as Sir Ralph Richardson, Meriel Forbes, John McCallum, Googie Withers and Dame Sybil Thorndyke. He was also a regular attendee at plays and the opera.
As Governor, Coombs was closely associated with the establishment of the SEANZA Central Banking Courses and Bankers’ Administrative Staff College. Coombs was conscious of the Bank’s legacy and the importance of records as a source of ongoing value and truth, and so in 1954 he appointed Jack Kirkwood as the Bank’s first official Archivist. One of Kirkwood’s first tasks was to identify records of ongoing value, not only to the Bank but to the nation, and to ensure the records were preserved for future generations and access granted to them on request.
In 1959, the Australian Government legislated to separate the central banking functions of the Commonwealth Bank from its savings and trading bank activities. On 14 January 1960, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia was renamed the Reserve Bank of Australia. Coombs continued as Governor of the Reserve Bank and Chairman of the Board, and he was reappointed Governor for a further seven years from 1 January 1963. Coombs had wanted to keep the Bank composite, in part because he saw the benefits in having a savings bank whose funds could assist investment and the economy through its central bank – including as a lender in the case of, for example, a depression. He also felt that central bank staff benefited in terms of their knowledge of the Australian economy, because of the composite model they worked under.17 However, other savings and trading banks and the government increasingly saw the model as giving the Bank an unfair advantage, and Coombs accepted the separation of the central bank functions under the name of Reserve Bank of Australia, with the savings and trading bank functions under the new Commonwealth Banking Corporation.
Unlike the autocratic styles of his predecessors, Coombs favoured a collaborative style of leadership, one that empowered the individual to make decisions, and he was encouraging and delegated to senior officers where he was able. Coombs made a point of engaging with all staff, regardless of their role or level. Under his governorship, the Bank’s profile – especially on the international stage – grew. At the time of his retirement in 1968, the Bank was regarded as one of the most influential central banks in the world. Coombs guided the Bank through great social and political change, through sound economic policies and prudent stewardship. Such was the regard in which he was held that, in 1966, The Economist recommended him as the next Governor of the Bank of England, should the position become available. In the same year, the Financial Times hailed him as the foremost foreign banker.18 Coombs also embraced technology and innovation, and from 1965–1968 represented the Bank on the Atomic Energy Advisory Committee (having previously been on the committee of the Business Advisory Group of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission). In line with a number of American banks, the Committee’s purpose was to review progress in the field of atomic energy, and the possible impact atomic energy could have on the national economy and banking system.19
As Governor of the Reserve Bank, Coombs oversaw the construction of the Bank’s new Head Office in Martin Place, Sydney. He supported the modernist international style of the building, and commissioned many mid-century designers and artists – including Fred Ward, Leonard French, Sidney Nolan, Bim Hilder and Margel Hinder – to design its interiors, furniture, art and sculptures. Gordon Andrews created the Bank’s logo as a purely abstract design after talking to Coombs, who freed him to look at it in such a way. Coombs supported a number of Australian artists, many largely unknown at the time, through the purchase of paintings, tapestries, ceramics and other forms of art for the new building, and by promoting some of the paintings on the Bank’s Christmas cards. The connections he had made with Indigenous artists, and his commitment to Indigenous affairs, culminated in the purchase of a significant collection of bark paintings by Coombs’ successor, John (Jock) Phillips.
Coombs also supported an Indigenous presence on Australia’s first decimal currency. The $1 banknote, which entered circulation in 1966, featured the art of David Malangi Daymirringu, whom Coombs later met when he visited the Northern Territory to acknowledge Malangi’s contribution to the banknote design.
During his time as Governor of the Bank, journalists and others described Coombs variously as a non-conformist, champion of the underdog and vehemently anti-censorship. Later in his governorship, he was described more as a fatherly figure. He never lost the competitive streak he showed as a schoolboy – his outlet for this was often a hard game of squash, played on the Bank’s courts in Head Office or, when interstate, on the courts in some of the state branch buildings. In a rare interview, he mentioned that he had become an economist when the conformity of teaching became too much, clearly showing he enjoyed variety and even change.20 Coombs was someone who valued freedom of speech and championed causes he felt strongly about. Architecture was one such passion. In 1967, he praised Jorn Utzon’s brilliant designs for the Sydney Opera House and spoke openly about the disgraceful way in which he had been treated; Coombs predicted that in years to come the building would be one of the world’s architectural wonders.21 Mostly, however, Coombs was acknowledged as someone who relished a challenge and who fought for social equality through economic means.
Among the many accolades on his retirement from the Bank was the following observation: ‘Dr Coombs came to us with a brilliant academic record … and … as a fine administrator, a man who understood and knew how to get his ideas across to people. It was in this way that he built the place up. He made it a place that you and I are proud to work in, a place that stands high in the community.’22
Later life and death
As Governor, Coombs formulated policies for the prosperity of all, but it was only after he retired from the Bank that he was able to devote his time and energy more freely to causes he cared deeply about. Retiring on 22 July 1968, Coombs became Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs from 1968–1976, and Chairman of the Australian Council for the Arts (now Australia Council for the Arts / Australia Council) from 1968–1974. He also worked to secure funding for an Australian film industry.
Having taken part in the planning of the ANU when he was Director-General of Post-War Reconstruction, Coombs subsequently became a member of the Interim Council and then the University Council in 1951. He was elected Deputy Chairman in 1951 and became Pro-Chancellor in 1959. Coombs was then appointed Chancellor of the ANU from 1968–1976 and later divided his time between the University’s Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies in Canberra and its North Australia Research Unit in Darwin.
Coombs was President of the Australian Conservation Foundation from 1977–1979. In 1979, he was appointed Chairman of the Aboriginal Treaty Committee and called for a formal treaty between Australia and the Aboriginal people. He felt a deep sense of the injustice and inequality that existed in society, especially amongst First Nations peoples, and saw these later roles as his most important. He was a great supporter of education and the belief in its reforming character for both the individual and society. Had he not been an economist, Coombs had once mused that he might have been a botanist or physical scientist.
Coombs was an advisor to the Labor leader Gough Whitlam in the years before his prime ministership, and wrote much of Labor’s policy on Aboriginal affairs, particularly the commitment to land rights. When Whitlam became Prime Minister in 1972, Coombs was appointed as a consultant to the Prime Minister especially regarding economic policy. However, Coombs was not advised of the Government’s attempts to bypass Treasury and the Loan Council in order to raise funds overseas after the Senate blocked supply, and he took little subsequent part in politics after Whitlam was dismissed. In 1975 Coombs was appointed as Chairman of a Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration, which was tasked with examining the purpose, functions, organisation and management of Australian Government bodies and the structure and management of the Australian Public Service.
In addition to his leadership positions, Coombs was a published author. His books included Other People’s Money (1971), Trial Balance (1981) and The Return of Scarcity (1990). He wrote extensively about land rights for Aboriginal peoples and on the economic, social and spiritual factors affecting Indigenous health, and more generally on economic policies. When, on 16 August 1975, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam handed over freehold title of the Gurindji lands to Vincent Lingiari, he read from a speech largely written by Coombs;23 Whitlam also acted on Coombs’ suggestion to perform a symbolic gesture by pouring red earth through Vincent Lingiari’s hands at the ceremony.24
Coombs died at a Sydney nursing home on 29 October 1997, after a period of poor health. He was 91 years of age. At the time of his death, Coombs was the Bank’s longest-serving Governor, having been in the role for 19 years and in the Bank for over 30 years. His legacy was the effective and influential way in which he navigated the Bank through decades of economic and social change, and the deep and abiding affection in which he was held by so many within the Bank and outside it.
Two funeral services were held to mark his passing: the first at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on 14 November 1997; and the second at Yirrkala, the small community in the East Arnhem Region in the Northern Territory, on 12 October 1998. Coombs had first visited Yirrkala in February 1968 and advocated for the community in his role as Chairman for the Council of Aboriginal Affairs, in which he acted as an intermediary between the Aboriginal leaders of Yirrkala and the government agencies whose decisions affected their lives. At the ceremony at Yirrkala, Coombs was accorded full Aboriginal funeral rites and was the only non-Aboriginal person to have been honoured in this way by the community.
Awards and honours
Coombs received a number of awards during his lifetime, although he placed little importance on them in general. Among them, The Australian newspaper announced him as their Australian of the Year in 1972 and he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1975, the highest award of the Order that was founded in that year to mark the Queen’s birthday; however, he resigned his appointment in 1976 when knighthoods were added to the Order. In 1977 he was awarded the ANZAAS Medal at the 48th Congress of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science.
A building at ANU was named in his honour as was a scholarship, and the Reserve Bank’s training college at Kirribilli in Sydney was renamed the H.C. Coombs Centre for Financial Studies in 1989. A suburb in the Molonglo Valley in the ACT called Coombs was gazetted in 2010.
1 See Furphy (2015). For further information, see Cornish (2021); Miller (2007); Cornish (2012).
2 The term ‘Bank’ refers to the continuous entity of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which was renamed the Reserve Bank of Australia in 1960 when it commenced operations as Australia’s central bank. The Reserve Bank Act 1959 separated the Commonwealth Bank’s central banking functions from its commercial banking activities. The Commonwealth Bank was renamed the Reserve Bank of Australia and was constituted separately from the newly created Commonwealth Banking Corporation, which would operate as a trading bank.
3 Rowse (2002), p 19.
4 Rowse (2002), pp 25-26.
5 Rowse (2002), p 73.
6 RBA Archives GHC-67-30 (newspaper article entitled ‘Assistant Economist. Commonwealth Bank Appointment’, 2/8/1935).
7 Rowse (2002), p 73.
8 RBA Archives SD92-00873, p 6.
9 RBA Archives SD92-00873, p 6.
10 RBA Archives Currency magazine, September 1968. Supplement – Dr H.C. Coombs 1949–1968, p 2.
11 RBA Archives SD92-00873, p 12.
12 See RBA Museum, ‘The Role of Dr H C Coombs’.
13 RBA Archives GHC-53-4.
14 RBA Archives SD92-00873, p 12.
15 RBA Archives Currency magazine, September 1968. Supplement ‘Dr H.C. Coombs 1949–1968’, p 3.
16 Rowse (2002), pp 185–186.
17 Rowse (2002), pp 234–235.
18 RBA Archives GHC-67-30 (newspaper article entitled ‘Now an Oscar’, 25/1/1966).
19 RBA Archives C.126.96.36.199.
20 RBA Archives GHC-67-30 (newspaper article entitled ‘I Like People Who Don’t Conform’, 30/4/1967).
21 RBA Archives GHC-67-30 (newspaper article entitled ‘I’m no cultural leader says Opera House champion’, 3/3/1967).
22 RBA Archives Currency magazine, August 1968, p 3.
23 See NFSA (1975), ‘Whitlam's Gurindji Speech’, 16 August.
24 See RBA Museum, ‘Dr H C Coombs and Australia's First Nations’.
This information is drawn from records held by the Reserve Bank of Australia and the following external sources:
Cornish S (2010), The Evolution of Central Banking in Australia, Reserve Bank of Australia, Sydney.
Cornish S (2007), ‘Herbert Cole Coombs (1906-1997)’, in JE King (ed), A Biographical Dictionary of Australian and New Zealand Economists, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham UK.
Cornish S (2012), ‘Randall, Sir Richard John (Dick) (1906–1982)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
Cornish S (2021), ‘Wilson, Sir Roland (1904–1996)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
Furphy S (2015), ‘Life Sentences: Canberra’s Seven Dwarfs’, ANU Reporter, 46(4).
Miller JDB (2007), ‘Crawford, Sir John Grenfell (Jack) (1910–1984)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), Mabo the Native Title Revolution. Available at <https://www.mabonativetitle.com>.
Nix H, ‘Coombs, Herbert Cole (Nugget) (1906–1997)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
Rowse T (2002), Nugget Coombs A Reforming Life, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Schedvin CB (1992), In Reserve: Central Banking in Australia 1945 to 1975, Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd, Sydney.
The majority of records relating to Dr Coombs can be found in the Bank Governors & Senior Personnel Series, and in Secretary’s Department records, including the records of Bank Management and Bank Board. There are also articles, speeches and lectures given by Dr Coombs to various organisations, which can be found in both the Governors & Senior Personnel, and Secretary’s Department records. Minutes of the Atomic Energy Committee and various advisory committees also contain correspondence and minutes featuring Dr Coombs. As not all these records have been digitised, they will not appear on Unreserved.
There is also a collection of photographs and other items held by the Bank that have associations with Dr Coombs – for example, items he used or commissioned as part of his working life at the Bank. Given Dr Coombs’ influence across all areas of Bank life, correspondence and reports can be found across many series of records – for example, the Research Department, Banking Department and London Letters series.
There are also records held outside of the Bank that reflect Dr Coombs and his many and varied roles, and include records and photographs held at the ANU, the National Library of Australia (including in TROVE) and the National Archives of Australia.
Bank's functions, activities, incidents, etc - Visitors to Bank - Delegation from the People's Bank of China - with former Governor Dr H.C. Coombs - 1986
Staff - Social Functions - Head Office 65 Martin Place - Retired Officers evening - L to R: Mrs Coombs, Dr Coombs and May Grant - 28 November 1986
Staff - Social functions - Kirribilli - naming of the H.C. Coombs Centre for Financial Studies - Dr Coombs unveiling the name plaque - 15 May 1989
Staff - Social functions - Kirribilli - Naming ceremony for the H.C. Coombs Centre for Financial Studies - Includes H.M. Knight, Peter Ferguson, Dr Coombs, Mrs Coombs, Graeme Thompson, Josie Thompson - 15 May 1989
Staff - Social functions - Kirribilli - Naming of HC Coombs Centre for Financial Studies - L to R: Bob Johnston, Harry Knight and Dr Coombs - 15 May 1989
Staff - Social functions - Head Office 65 Martin Place - Dr Coombs former Governor - Gives an informal talk to Research Department staff watched by Don Stammer (Deputy Manager, Research Department) - 7 February 1977
Staff - Social functions - Head Office 65 Martin Place - Dr Coombs lunches with the Governor and Senior officers to celebrate his 70th birthday - L to R: Don Sanders (Deputy Governor), Dr Coombs and Harry Knight (Governor) - 27 February 1976
Staff - Social functions - Kirribilli - David Emanuel, Bob Johnston and Dr HC Coombs at the naming ceremony of the H.C. Coombs Centre for Financial Studies - 15 September 1988
Staff - Social functions - Dr Coombs' 85th Birthday celebration attended by Bernie Fraser (Governor), Dr Coombs and John Phillips (Deputy Governor) - February 1991
Secretary's Department - Lectures - Governor - University of Melbourne - 1st Summer School of Business Administration - 1956
Secretary's Department - Lectures - Governor - Australian National University - Canisius College - 1964
Secretary's Department - Lectures - Governor - Australian National University - Ceremony of Conferring Honorary Degrees - Introduction of Sir Owen Dixon - 10 September 1964
Secretary's Department - Lectures - Governor - New Guinea Society - "Post War Developments in Banking in TPNG" - 23 March 1961 to 2 May 1961
Secretary's Department - Lectures - Governor - Karachi University - "Problems of Monetary Policy in Under-Developed Countries" - 3 March 1964
Secretary's Department - Coombs, Dr H.C. - Subscription - Friends of the London School of Economics - 1961-1965
SECRETARY'S DEPARTMENT - Commonwealth Bank - Separation Section 3 - Governor's Speech to Senior Officers - 1953
SECRETARY'S DEPARTMENT - Visits - Formal - Governor & Deputy Governor to State Governor & Lord Mayor - 1949
SECRETARY'S DEPARTMENT - Governor & Others - Letters to Branches - Section 1 - Governor - 1955 - 1960
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Thesis - “The Development of the Commonwealth Bank as a Central Bank” – Thesis Accepted for M.A. Degree, University of Western Australia
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - List of Addresses and Articles Delivered and Written by H.C. Coombs - 1936-1967
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Correspondence, Diaries and Speeches - Address - “Capital, Growth and International Payments” - Australian Industries Development Association Dinner, Hotel Windsor, Melbourne - 26 September 1967
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Correspondence, Diaries and Speeches - Address to Senior Staff, Reserve Bank - Re-Visit North and West Australia - 24 August 1967
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Correspondence, Diaries and Speeches - Address - “International Liquidity and its Significance for World Trade” - Georgetown University, Bankers' Forum - “Gold and the Monetary Unit” - 2 October 1965
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Correspondence, Diaries and Speeches - Address to Senior Staff, Reserve Bank - Re-Visit Overseas - January 1965
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Correspondence, Diaries and Speeches - Address - First National Instalment Credit Conference - University of NSW - 18 May 1964
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Correspondence, Diaries and Speeches - Address - “Relationship of the Central Bank with the Government – Policy Formulation and Co-ordination of Monetary and Fiscal Policies” - SEANZA Karachi - 4 March 1964
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Correspondence, Diaries and Speeches - Address - “Problems of Monetary Policy in Under–Developed Countries” - Economics Students, Karachi University - 3 March 1964
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Correspondence, Diaries and Speeches - Address - “Some Ingredients For Growth” - The Edward Shann Memorial Lecture, University of Western Australia - 31 May 1963
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Correspondence, Diaries and Speeches - Address to Senior Staff, Reserve Bank - Re-Visit Overseas - October 1962
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Correspondence, Diaries and Speeches - Address to Senior Staff, Reserve Bank - Re-Visit Overseas - May 1962
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Function Book - Maintained by Governor’s Messenger - 1960 to 1962
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Function Book - Maintained by Governor’s Messenger - 1957 to 1959
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Reserve Bank of Australia Annual Reports and Financial Statements - Personal Copy - 1967
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Reserve Bank of Australia Annual Reports and Financial Statements - Personal Copy - 1966
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Reserve Bank of Australia Annual Reports and Financial Statements - Personal Copy - 1965
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Reserve Bank of Australia Annual Reports and Financial Statements - Personal Copy - 1963
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Reserve Bank of Australia Annual Reports and Financial Statements - Personal Copy - 1963
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Reserve Bank of Australia Annual Reports and Financial Statements - Personal Copy - 1962
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Reserve Bank of Australia Annual Reports and Financial Statements - Personal Copy - 1961
GOVERNORS & SENIOR PERSONNEL - Dr H.C. Coombs - Reserve Bank of Australia Annual Reports and Financial Statements - Personal Copy - 1960
Interview with Dr H.C. Coombs by Dr Boris Schedvin for the Bank History Project, 12/6/1986, audio cassette (sides 1 and 2)