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William Thomas (Diver) Dobson (1927–1995)

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This entry is from People Australia

William Thomas (Diver) Dobson, also known as William John Watson (1927-1995) trade union official and confidence trickster 

Birth: 1927 at Melbourne, Victoria, son of native-born parents William George Dobson (1902-1975), agent, and Inez Mary, née Atkinson (1906-1972). Marriage: 1962 in Victoria to Gwenneth Therese Doolan (1937-2018).  Death: 6 January 1995 in Victoria. 

  • Confidence trickster who became notorious for alleged murder attempt by ‘communists’ at Sydney Harbour in 1949.
  • Raised in Moonee Ponds, Melbourne, Victoria. Educated at St Patrick’s College, Ballarat, Victoria, gaining Intermediate Certificate in 1943.
  • Worked for right-wing Australian Constitutional League in 1944. Gained war correspondent’s license and identity card in November 1945, travelled to China where he was noted for ‘career of opportunism and misrepresentation’.
  • In 1949 he became assistant secretary for Federated Clerks Union, Australian Labor Party Industrial Group.
  • Concocted plan with high-level support of Industrial Groups that communists had bashed and tried to drown him by throwing him off Manly ferry on 7 August 1949. Following media frenzy, collaborated (for payment) with cadres of Communist Party of Australia Laurie Aarons and Jack Hughes to ‘expose’ his duplicity through articles in Tribune. Also tricked Communists as many details were fabricated (e.g. that he had worked for US intelligence).
  • Con man career continued unabated. In 1953 he stole goods from Sydney department stores; was sentenced to four year’s imprisonment. Established in 1957 bogus research and information service in Canberra, the Australian Institute of Economic Research, was subject of fraud investigation.
  • In 1977 he taught industrial relations at University of Melbourne until it was discovered his Master of Arts degree was fraudulent.

Australian Historical Studies, 108, April 1997, pp 66-87; Sydney Morning Herald, 19 May 1997.

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Citation details

'Dobson, William Thomas (Diver) (1927–1995)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

William Dobson, 1953

William Dobson, 1953

Truth (Sydney), 21 June 1953, p 43

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Watson, William John

Ballarat, Victoria, Australia


6 January, 1995 (aged ~ 68)
Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Military Service
Key Organisations