Alumni profile

Bill Kelty AC

Bachelor of Economics, 1969
Doctor of the University (honoris causa), 2017

Trade unionist and board member of several private and public companies

Bill Kelty AC has had a long career in the union movement as a board member of several private and public companies. 

He holds a Bachelor of Economics from La Trobe, and is a member of the Class of 1969.

Bill says he came from a poor working-class family. Therefore, he had a drive to succeed.

"If you failed, life would be different. If you succeeded, it was a passport to the things I wanted to do. I didn’t allow anything to get in the way."

“I was about the hardest-working student at this university. Nobody worked harder than me.

Bill was a student of La Trobe in the 1960s, when the University was still in its infancy. But even then, he said it was a "wonderful place".

“Ideas, creativity [and a] sense of excitement - it was because of the teachers and because it was new ... I loved the place."

The two great teachers in my life were actually here. They gave me confidence and debated ideas with [me]. They made you think in different ways.

After graduating in 1969, Bill began his career in the trade union movement. Eventually, he played a role in delivering a number of ground-breaking initiatives for Australians.

“I look back on my life and I think I’ve been lucky to be involved in the three great negotiations: national healthcare, national superannuation and the best minimum wage system in the world," he says. 

Bill credits La Trobe with setting him up with a "sense of confidence", which has helped him throughout his illustrious career.

“What the University did here is they gave me a sense of confidence and they gave me a reward for being a combative person with ideas," he says.

"To give a working-class boy an opportunity just to be with them and learn from them was, for me, magic.

“I owe the University a lot.”

Distinguished Business and commerce

Last updated: 24th May 2019