Economist and educationist Professor Richard Charles Mills (1886 - 1952) had a long association with proposals for the university, helping to prepare the groundwork for The Australian National University Act, 1946. A talented administrator, he was adept at chairing the Interim Council until the permanent ANU Council was created on 12 July 1951, of which he was also a member.
Mills’ career is especially interesting because it helps to place the creation of the research university within the Commonwealth government’s relatively new, broader interests in education. In 1945 Mills was appointed to head the Universities Commission and the Commonwealth Department of Education, having already had a successful career at the University of Sydney. In 1946 the Governor-General (Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester) appointed Mills to the ANU Interim Council. This was the body responsible for implementing many of the main features of the 1946 Act and for overseeing the initial planning of the university site and the appointment of the first staff.
Many of the most able academics and administrators in Australia were members of the Interim Council: Sir Robert Garran, Sir David Rivett, and H.C. ‘Nugget’ Coombs among them, Coombs later becoming the fourth Chancellor of the ANU.
The Interim Council called on advice from many quarters but principally from the Academic Advisory Committee formally appointed in June 1947 with a membership of four distinguished academics, Sir Howard Florey and Professors Oliphant, Hancock and Firth.