Vice-Chancellor Copland, Osborne the Registrar and Lewis the Architect

The imminent Easter Conference hastened the Labor Cabinet’s decision to appoint economist Professor Douglas Berry Copland (1894 - 1971) as Vice-Chancellor. Since his appointment had long been rumoured, he had a say over who was to be invited to the Conference. Although he did not officially take up his duties until 11 May 1948, he returned from his post as Australia’s Minister in China on 3 April, the last day of the Conference. He immediately engaged in discussions about the university, acknowledging that ‘Many people have done some first-class basic thinking on the Australian National University. I shall profit by this thinking and I am grateful to those who have already given me such valuable advice.’

Robert Gumley Osborne (1903 - 1970) played a key role in organising the Easter Conference. He was in his mid-40s when, on 30 July 1947, he was appointed as the first Registrar at the ANU. This was far more than a limited administrative post. With both law and arts degrees from the University of Tasmania, Osborne was a former parliamentary draftsman, Acting Solicitor-General in Tasmania, and chief legal officer in the Commonwealth Department for War Organisation of Industry. Calling on this depth of experience, Osborne assisted with drafting the University's statutes and developing and interpreting academic policy. As yet there was no Bursar, and so a wide range of financial and organisational matters fell to him and his one or two secretarial assistants.

In 1947, the government recognised that planning the university site was an urgent priority. Professor Brian Bannatyne Lewis (1906 - 1991), who occupied the foundation chair of Architecture at the University of Melbourne was appointed as the consultant site and building architect. He attended the Easter Conference holding a bundle of plans. He had just returned from Europe where he had been studying university buildings, especially those designed for scientific research.

At the time of the Easter Conference, Lewis was drawing up his concept for the new Australian National University. The area known as ‘Acton’ lying between Black Mountain (clearly visible in his drawing) and the Molonglo River was the designated site. The damming of the Molonglo to form a large lake in the middle of the city was a feature of the original plan for the national capital. Although Lewis depicts the university forecourt coming right down to the lake, Lake Burley Griffin did not eventuate for another 16 years.