Australian Maths Trust


Bill Akhurst receives his BH Neumann Award from Professor Neumann at a function at the Langley Hotel in Perth, WA, 10 January 1993. Bill was the inaugural NSW Director for the AMC and in fact remained in that post through the 35 year period covered on this history.

Geoff Ball was presented with his award at a function on Thursday 24 September 1992 at the Art Gallery, Wentworth Building, University of Sydney. The function was presided by University Vice Chancellor Professor Don McNicol, and Head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics Professor Gus Lehrer.

In Peter O’Halloran’s citation speech he noted that Geoff was the present Director of First and Second Year Studies within the the School of Mathematics and Statistics. He noted Geoff had made an outstanding contribution to the enrichment of mathematics learning in New South Wales and throughout Australia. He has been

  1. The AMOC State Director for New South Wales since 1983.
  2. Deputy Team Leader of the Australian International Mathematical Olympiad Team for the seven years from 1983 to 1989.
  3. Director of Training for the selection of the Australian IMO team for four years.
  4. Coordinator of the University of Sydney’s ex-IMO team members — there have been 17 such students at the University of Sydney, many achieving University Medals in Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Computer Science.
  5. Convenor of the Mathematics Association of NSW’s Mathsearch Programme for 7 years until 1991.
  6. Joint Organiser of the University of Sydney Mathematics Enrichment Programme for 9 years.
  7. Member of the Australian Mathematics Competition Problems Committee in 1981 and 1982.

As a later note, after Geoff later retired from the University of Sydney and handed over the Director of Training role to Bill Palmer, Geoff continued through 2012 as principal coordinator of the training of NSW students.

Larry Blakers was presented his award at the Australian Mathematical Society’s Annual Dinner at its 1992 Conference, which appears to have been held in Perth. In his speech Peter O’Halloran noted that Larry had directed the AAMT/ANU Summer School for 24 years. On the evening Larry was too ill to attend and Cheryl Praeger received it on his behalf.

AL (Larry) Blakers (1917-1995)

Larry Blakers was a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Western Australia for 30 years and head of the mathematics department for 29. He had key roles in founding of the Mathematics Association of Western Australia and the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers, and was a foundation member of the Council of the Australian Mathematical Society. But he is best known on an ongoing basis as the founder of the National Mathematics Summer School.

On his death the following note appears as part of Derek Robinson’s President’s column in the Australian Mathematical Society’s Gazette.

It is with deep regret that I have to announce the death of Emeritus Professor Larry Blakers on the 6th March 1995. Larry played an important role in the foundation of the Australian Mathematical Society, the Australian Association of Mathematical Teachers and the Mathematical Association of Western Australia. He was also the founder and long term Director of the National Mathematics Summer School for gifted high school students which takes place in Canberra each year.

Returning to Australia in 1952 after an absence of 12 years Larry was aware of the lack of any formal infrastructure linking the mathematics profession. In 1953 he set about establishing personal contact with the other Heads of Mathematics Departments in the universities. This he achieved by driving overland from Perth to pay personal visits to his colleagues in the east. His mission was to obtain agreement on the establishment of a mathematical society and the publication of a mathematical journal. Despite the considerable doubt and hesitation that he encountered these aims were achieved with the Society formally founded on 15 August, 1956 and the Journal appearing for the first time in 1959.

Larry was a Foundation Member of the Council of the Australian Mathematical Society and served on it for many years. He was Vice-President from 1961 to 1963 and 1976 to 1978 then President from 1980 to 1982.

Larry wrote the Foreword to the AMOC Australian Scene in 1986 and it is reproduced below, indicating some of his philosopies and background.

The first International Mathematical Olympiad was held in 1959. In that year I participated (in the USA) in my first residential summer school for mathematically talented High School students. Stimulated by the experience I returned to Australia to found both state and national mathematics summer schools, with the broad object of recognising and fostering mathematical talent in the upper secondary level.

Other Australian mathematicians and educators have picked up the olympiad concept and have developed it into a vigorous and dedicated Australian program, leading to participation in the IMO. The general objectives of this program are distinctly similar to those of the National Mathematics Summer School.

In view of these common objectives, it is not surprising that IMO and NMSS frequently have common students, and it is becoming increasingly clear that the two activities are complementary, each in some way supports the other. There is also common ground in the difficulty that both programs have experienced in securing long-term financial sponsorship!

A few years ago there was a naive view abroad that the increasing sophistication and availability of computers would progressively diminish the need for a strong and universal education in mathematics. In fact precisely the opposite is happening, with more and more aspects of our society becoming amenable to mathematical modelling and analysis. It is now clear that there is a need for a stronger mathematical education at all levels. In addition to the need for programs such as the Mathematical Olympiads for students at all levels across the ability spectrum. Too many of our present school leavers have had unsatisfactory mathematics experiences which leave them with negligible skills and understanding, and with an unhealthy dislike and fear of mathematics. In a recent talk to the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers the Chairman of the Commonwealth Schools Commission, Mr Garth Boomer said:

“The present state of (school) mathematics is a threat to democracy. Too many are denied full access to it, too many fail it, and too many come to rely on those few who have been initiated. Human dignity is undermined by the submerged guilt about inadequacy that resides with so many of our citizens.”

To improve the situation is a nontrivial educational problem to whose solution I hope that our Mathematical Olympians will eventually contribute, for such a solution would have tremendous benefit for our society.

The next two years promise to be very exciting ones for all who are involved in Mathematical Olympiads, with Australia hosting the 1988 IMO. I am confident that in both mathematical and human terms this will be one of the outstanding successes of our bicentennial year and I commend the efforts of all those who have worked so hard to bring it about.

Professor John Carlyle Burns receives his BH Neumann Award from Professor Neumann, at a function held in the University of Canberra Council Room, on 29 June 1992. This was the first BH Neumann Award to be presented. John was for many years Professor of Mathematics at RMC Duntroon and inaugural professor at ADFA and was the founding Treasurer and Secretary of AMOC.


Professor Burns was born in New Zealand and after completing his BSc and MSc at Auckland he was awarded a post-graduate scholarship and spent two years at St John’s College, Cambridge, under supervision of Sir James Lighthill, before being awarded a Research Scholarship at the University of Manchester.

He lectured at Auckland University, Victoria University of Wellington and the Australian National University before joining the Faculty of Military Studies at Royal Military College, Duntroon, as Professor of Mathematics in 1969. He was Dean of the Faculty from 1973 to 1977.

His achievements include eight years as Foundation Secretary/Treasurer of the Australian Mathematical Olympiad Committee; membership of the organising committee for the Australian hosting of the 1988 International Mathematical Olympiad; and authorship of many questions for the Australian Mathematical Olympiad, Telecom Junior and Senior Contests and the Asian Pacific Mathematics Olympiad.

He is also author of innovative discussion notes for the Telecom Correspondence Program and co-author of the Deductive Reasoning via Euclidean Geometry student notes in the Enrichment Stage of the Mathematics Challenge for Young Australians. He has been a consistent supporter of the Australian Mathematics Competition and its activities.

Peter O’Halloran

29 June 1992

Gale receives his BH Neumann Award from Professor Neumann at a function at the Langley Hotel in Perth, WA, 10 January 1993. Gus was the founding AMC Director for New Zealand and has been the National Director for New Zealand for the full 35 year period covered by this history.

Career of Gus Gale

Gus Gale was the New Zealand Director of the Australian Mathematics Competition since its inception and through the whole period of history covered by this web site. At the writing of this in 2014 Gus was still in this position and a member of the Australian Mathematics Foundation. He is the most senior figure, still, in New Zealand, in the teaching of mathematics in this country.

Gus graduated in 1958 with a First Class Honours Degree in Mathematics at the University of Canterbury. For the next 27 years he taught at Cashmere, Lincoln, Riccarton and Papanui High Schools, and for 12 years he was Principal of Hornby High School. In retirement he spent 8 years teaching Maths to Engineering students at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology.

He has always been aware that Mathematics is not a subject that all students find easy to grasp and has always wanted to make the subject interesting, fun, relevant to our surroundings, as well as being challenging and endeavouring to promote a love of mathematics in his students.

How has he done that? For several years he was President of the Canterbury Mathematical Association, and during this time he and the late Bevan Werry introduced the now very well established CANTAMATHS COMPETITION and EXHIBITION. Those who have children involved in this will know the excitement that the Team Competition generates with the supporters cheering on their team as if it was a football match. But there are sections available for students not chosen for the Team event to also show their interest, knowledge and skills of Mathematics. When Bevan and Gus first suggested this to their committee back in 1972 it was not received with any enthusiasm, so they decided to organise it themselves. In 2014 it is still going strong and has been copied by other subjects and by other countries. From the success of this, he was involved in developing other competitions with a Mathematical base. These are still held annually.

In 1966 Gus was one of the driving forces to establish the Senior Mathematics Competition for able senior students. It started as a competition for local students, but soon expanded to become a National one. Students sit a preliminary paper in their schools, and then the top 20 travel to Christchurch for the Final. They compete for cash prizes.

From 1975 to 1982, Gus was the Co-ordinator of a Pilot Scheme to Internally Assess School Certificate Mathematics in Canterbury, South Canterbury and Westland. The local High Schools were disappointed when the Education Department called a halt. But this was the time when the present NCEA was being developed and it is rewarding to note that the Assessment Process operating today contains some of the processes used in the Pilot Scheme of some 40 years before. At this time Gus was also heavily involved in co-ordinating a General Mathematics Course to cater for students who found the more academic curriculum too difficult and not relevant to their needs.

Gus also served as the examiner for School Certificate Mathematics and the old University Entrance Applied Mathematics examinations for several years and was a member of the University and Department of Education Curriculum Development Committees.

In the 1970s he worked with Professor John Andree of the Canterbury University Electrical Engineering Department along with research student Robert Platts to develop a computer program to produce school timetables. This was ground-breaking development in the 70s. Sufficient progress was made for Robert to complete his PhD and work for a company producing school time-tables.

Gus was seconded by the Department of Education in 1973-74 as a Mathematics Adviser to teachers in the Southern Region and organised many In-service Courses, including the first ever Australasian Mathematics Conference for Secondary and Tertiary teachers. It was at this Conference that the New Zealand Association of Mathematics Teachers (NZAMT) was established with Gus as its foundation President.

  • In 1975 he was awarded a Woolf Fisher Travelling Fellowship
  • In 1976 he was awarded a Teaching Fellowship to the University of Canterbury
  • In 1985 he was awarded the Mobil Enterprise Award
  • In 1990 he was awarded the NZ Commemoration Medal – CM for Services to Education
  • In 2007 he was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit – ONZM for Services to Mathematics Education

Since 1978, Gus has been the New Zealand Director for the Australian Mathematics Competition. in which New Zealand entries can be up to 30,000 annually. It is worth noting that New Zealand students do extremely well in the AMC. Medals are presented in Australia to about one in 10,000 students. On this basis New Zealand would expect 3 medals but often get 4, sometimes 5. The top students in the AMC can be selected for special training for membership of the New Zealand team at the International Mathematical Olymiad, involving teams from about 100 countries and New Zealand teams do very well here also.

In 1993 Gus was presented with the BH Neumann Award for his significant contribution to the enrichment of mathematics learning in New Zealand. Until 2014 Gus was the only New Zealander to receive this Award.


At the 2011 AMC medal ceremony in Auckland, with the medalists, are at left Professor Ivan Reilly, of the University of Auckland, and Peter Taylor, and at right Gus with NZ representative on the AMC Problems Committee Alan Parris.


David Haimes receives his BH Neumann Award from Professor Neumann at a function at ICME7, Quebec, 1992. At the time David was teaching in Canada after being the foundation WA director of the AMC, which he did for 12 years.


Bruce Henry receiving his BH Neumann Award from the Governor of Victoria, the Hon. Richard McGarvie QC, at Government House on Friday 16 October, 1992. Bruce was inaugural Victorian Director of AMC and is still fulfilling this function 35 years later at the end of the period covered here.


Assaeli Raass, AMC National Director for Tonga, receives his BH Neumann Award from Professor Neumann at a function at the Langley Hotel in Perth, WA, 10 January 1993. Assa was inaugural AMC Director for Tonga and served in this position 23 years (1982 to 2004).


Ann Richards receives her BH Neumann Award from Professor Neumann at a function at the Langley Hotel in Perth, WA, 10 January 1993. She was Foundation Director for the Northern Territory and served in that role for 18 years.


Phill Schultz’s Award was presented at the Annual Dinner at the Australian Mathematical Society Conference held in 1992 in Perth. Phill, an Associate Professor at the University of Western Australia, was WA Director of AMOC for 14 years. Peter O’Halloran noted in his citation speech that in that time he organised, identified and introduced local talented students in mathematics to participate in one or other of the AMOC problem solving activities. For example, there was Andrew Hassell, who was the first Australian to receive a gold medal at an International Olympiad. Other IMO medallists from Western Australia were Kim Yan Cheng and Andrew Kepert.


James Lewis (Jim) Williams

Jim Williams was presented with his award at a function on Thursday 24 September 1992 at the Art Gallery, Wentworth Building, University of Sydney. The function was presided by University Vice Chancellor Professor Don McNicol, and Head of the School of Mathematics and Statistics Professor Gus Lehrer.

In Peter O’Halloran’s citation speech he noted that Jim was a past Director of First and Second Year Studies within the former Department of Pure Mathematics at the University.

Peter noted that Jim had made a significant contribution to the enrichment of mathematics education, not only in New South Wales, but also for the whole of Australia. He was

  1. Foundation National Director of the Australian Mathematical Olympiad Training Programme from 1979 to 1986.
  2. Leader of the Australian International Mathematical Olympiad teams from 1981 until 1985.
  3. Chairman of the Australian Mathematical Olympiad Problems Committee from 1980 until 1985.
  4. Member of the Australian Mathematics Competition Problems Committee for seven years.


Born East Newcastle 1917, died Sydney 01 February 1993

Jim Williams was born and raised in Newcastle, attending Newcastle Boys High School. In Newcastle he was a keen surfer and played grade cricket and baseball. (He had a strong love of sport and was also in later life an avid follower of Australian teams in cricket, rugby league and rugby union.)

He attended the University of Sydney and graduated in 1938 with first class honours in physics and first class honours in mathematics. In 1939 he graduated from Sydney Teachers College, winning the Jones Medal. In the same year he set out as a secondary school teacher with the NSW Department of Education.

Jim served with the Royal Australian Air Force during World War 2, first meeting his future wife Dorothy in Melbourne while training, then serving in the Solomon Islands until they were captured by the Japanese in 1942. He then saw further action while variously based in New Hebrides, New Caledonia, Hawaii and Milne Bay. He married Dorothy in Melbourne in 1944 and reached the rank of Squadron Leader.

In 1946 he resumed his role as a teacher. In 1946 and 1947 he became a Lecturer in Mathematics at the Sydney Teachers College and in 1947 was awarded the Gowrie Research Travelling Scholarship, which enabled him to attend King’s College Cambridge. Between 1947 and 1949 he graduated BA with honours in Parts 2 and 3 of the Mathematical Tripos. During this period he also served on the Council of the Mathematical Association (UK).

He returned to Australia, and between 1950 and 1959 he was Head of the Department of Mathematics at Sydney Teachers College. During this time he was a member of all mathematics syllabus committees of the NSW Board of Secondary Studies, was assistant examiner, examiner and chief examiner of mathematics at the NSW Leaving Certificate examinations, member of the primary mathematics syllabus committees of the NSW Department of Education and had become a part-time Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Sydney.

From 1950 to 1955 Jim was Editor of the Australian Mathematics Teacher.

In 1952 he graduated MSc at the University of Sydney and in 1954 MA at Cambridge University.

From 1959 to 1964 Jim was Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Sydney, and from 1964 to 1975 he was Director of First and Second Year Studies in Pure Mathematics there. During this time he co-authored, with Alistair McMullen, the very successful series of secondary school mathematics texts On Course Mathemtics published by Macmillan Co. of Australia.

From 1950 to 1975 Jim was a member of the Executive of the Mathematical Association of NSW (MANSW). In 1967 and 1968 he was its President. Through this time he was also a member of the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (US). He was also a regular contributor of articles to the Australian Mathematics Teacher and to the Mathematics Bulletin of the NSW Department of Education, and Lecturer at Mathematics Seminars organised by the NSW Inservice Training Department. In 1975 Jim was made an Honorary Life Member of MANSW.

In 1964 he was a member of the organising committee for the UNESCO Mathematics Conference held in Sydney.

In 1969 Jim was awarded a Carnegie Travelling Scholarship and spent a year in the US investigating mathematics education at secondary and tertiary levels, attending NCTM Conferences, and taking part in Summer Schools.

From 1973 to 1976 he was Convenor of a Committee which prepared published solutions to the Higher School Certificate examination papers for MANSW. In 1975 he inaugurated a NSW Mathematical Olympiad for Year 11 students based on the USA Mathematical Olympiad. This was later renamed by MANSW as the JL Williams Competition.

During the late 1970s this experience enabled Jim to become one the the main lobbyists for Australia to become a participating country at the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) and from 1979 to 1986 he was the National Director of Training for the Australian program and Team Leader for Australia. The last of these events was the first of the IMOs attended by Terry Tao. In this time Jim was also a member of the Problems Committee of the Australian Mathematics Competition, which had just begun.


In 1992 Jim was honoured with the presentation of a BH Neumann Award of the Australian Mathematics trust.

In his MANSW obituary in 1993 for Jim, Jim’s friend Geoff Ball noted that Jim was a character. Jim was certainly that. In his presence Jim was larger than life, always positive, cheerful, a great sense of humour, strongly batting for the presence of geometry at all occasions. For people like Geoff, who worked with him for many years, he was a major inspiration. Even for others of us who only knew Jim in his later career, he also was. Jim, more than anyone, epitomised a great and colourful period of mathematics and mathematics teaching, in New South Wales and beyond.

Peter Taylor

December 2012

(based to a large extent on information supplied by his family)


Neil Williams, of the University of Queensland, was presented to his wife Sheila (later also a recipient in her own right), on his behalf, at the Annual Dinner at the Australian Mathematical Society Conference in Perth in 1992.

In his citation speech Peter O’Halloran noted that Neil had been the Queensland State Director of AMOC for 12 years. He also directed the local Queensland Maths Teachers Contest for a similar period of time, proposed many questions for the various AMOC contests and moderator for these contests over 7 years. He was also noted as co-editor with Ash Plank of the recently published AMOC’s top selling Olympiad syllabus book Mathematical Toolchest. Peter noted that this will be an outstanding contribution to mathematics learning for talented students, not only in Australia, but throughout the world. Peter believed that this book will become the unofficial mathematics curriculum for talented school students.

Neil went on to complete 21 years’ service over the years 1980 to 2000 and is shown here in 2001 in Brisbane with Professor Anne Street, Chair of AMOC, celebrating his long service.