Passing of Robert (Bob) Alan Johnston AC

On behalf of current and former colleagues at the Reserve Bank, the Governor, Philip Lowe, records with deep regret that former Governor Robert Alan Johnston AC died on 20 March 2023, aged 98. He was Governor of the Reserve Bank from 1982 to 1989.

Portrait of Robert Alan Johnston by Judy Cassab (RBA Collection OP-001688)
Portrait of Robert Alan Johnston by Judy Cassab (RBA Collection OP-001688)

Robert Alan Johnston AC – better known to family, friends and colleagues as Bob – joined the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, later the Reserve Bank, in 1940 at just 16 years of age. After enlisting in the RAAF in 1943 as a radio operator, he served in various locations throughout the remainder of the Second World War, including deployments in Darwin and Morotai in Indonesia. He returned to the Bank in 1946, where he worked in the Securities Department and the Economics Department before his appointment as Assistant Secretary in 1957. In this position he made a significant contribution to the migration of the central banking functions of the Commonwealth Bank, which had evolved over time, into the newly created Reserve Bank of Australia.

In 1976, Mr Johnston was appointed as the Bank's Chief Representative in London. This was followed by a secondment to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, part of the World Bank Group in Washington, DC. After his return to the Reserve Bank in 1979, he was involved in the Campbell Inquiry into the Australian Financial System and was subsequently the Bank's representative on the government task force that examined the Committee's recommendations.

In August 1982, Mr Johnston was appointed Governor of the Reserve Bank for a term of seven years. During his tenure he presided over significant financial system reforms, including the move that led to the floating of the Australian dollar, the deregulation of the banking system and the Bank's evolution into an important regulatory body. He also helped to steer the economy through notable headwinds such as the currency crises of the mid 1980s and the October 1987 stock market crash. In 1986 he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia for his services to banking.

Mr Johnston is remembered for his sound judgement, integrity and enduring commitment to the advancement of Australia's central bank. The Reserve Bank Board and staff extend their sincere condolences to his family.