William Berge Phillips OBE


Awarded Life Membership 18 February 1978

Birth: 15 July 1913, Sydney NSW

Death: 20 October 2003, Sydney NSW (90 years)

William ‘Bill’ Burge Phillips was an eminent figure on pool decks around the Australian and international aquatic sports scene.

He is often credited with the success of Australian swimming at the international level since his first involvement in the London 1948 Olympic Games and his pursuits lead him to work for the betterment of swimming, water polo, diving and artistic swimming, or synchronised swimming as it was then known.

Educated in law at the University of Sydney, we won a Blue in water polo before commencing his career in the law before setting up his own firm, Herbert Smith & W.B. Phillips. He was made a life member of the Law Society of NSW in 1986.

He commenced his days as a volunteer in swimming as a costume steward for the NSW Amateur Swimming Association in 1933. In 1940 he was elected as the NSW delegate on the executive committee of the Amateur Swimming Union of Australia (ASUA). He was honorary secretary and treasurer of the ASUA from 1941 to 1967, then president until 1970.

He was the manager and coach of the London 1948 Olympic swimming team which, for the first time, included a water polo team. While in London in 1948 he was appointed to the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) Bureau – a position he held as member (1948-52), Vice-President (1952-64), President (1964-68) and honorary life member thereafter. He is one of very few Australians to have been president of an International Federation in an Olympic sport.

At the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Burge Phillips served as arena manager at the Olympic pool, and he ran Australian Swimming for 26 years as secretary and treasurer from his legal offices.

In 1967 Burge Phillips was instrumental in forming the General Assembly of International Sports Federations (GAISF), comprising the international controlling bodies for all 92 Olympic sports, summer and winter. He was appointed foundation president in 1967 and remained until he resigned in 1969, serving just one term – has he had designed when drafting the organisations constitution which stated the president could serve only one term,

Given his passion for swimming and other aquatic pursuits, Bill was heavily involved in the Commonwealth Sport Movement.

He was an Executive Member of the Australian Commonwealth Games Association from 1946-1976 and on the Advisory Committee and Honorary Treasurer of the then Commonwealth Games Federation (British Empire and Commonwealth Games Federation) in addition to his role as Section Manager of the water polo team at the Auckland 1950 British Empire Games.  He also served as a FINA representative at the Commonwealth Games as chief judge, swimming or water polo referee at every Games from 1950 to 1966. He attended every Commonwealth Games from Sydney in 1938 until Kuala Lumpur in 1998.

He served as Olympic referee and judge of swimming from 1948-76 and on the Olympic jury of appeal for swimming at 14 Olympic Games for 52 years from 1948 to 2000. In 1983 he was awarded the Olympic Order (Silver) by the IOC.

For his contribution to sport and the community he was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1976

He was a Life Member of eight sporting organisations and the only person to be a Life Member of NSW Swimming and NSW Athletics, along with the Amateur Swimming Union of Australia and the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honorary Member.

In 1991 he was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame as a General Member.


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