HICKIE, Philip Leonard (1927-2012)

Philip Hickie, circa 2010.
Philip Hickie, circa 2010.
Courtesy Hickie family
Philip, who passed away on 20 November 2012, was fondly remembered by all who had worked with him during his illustrious career. He graduated in engineering from the then University of Technology (now University of NSW) in 1949 and worked for The Metropolitan Water Sewage & Drainage Board and the Department of Public Works, but his heart was in the theatre.

Philip designed many amateur and semi-professional productions for, among others, the Independent Theatre, the Elizabethan Theatre Trust and The Genesian Theatre, where he also directed plays. His design for the Independent’s production of TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral won him the Commonwealth Jubilee Stage Design Competition in 1951. It was at the Independent too that Philip met his future wife, actor Philippa Baker. He persuaded her to move with him to The Genesian Theatre.

When television came to Australia in 1956, Hickie was appointed as one of the ABC’s first two designers and he worked also as a director. His studio creations featured in many popular ABC programs, including ‘Bill the Steamshovel’ on Mr Squiggle. Philip left the ABC to form an independent production company, Patrician Films, with his colleagues Ken Cook and John Crew. Their short films were created for ABC television to fill the 10 minute gaps in its programming due to the absence of advertisements.1

Philip and Philippa Hickie at their Chatswood home (1970)
Philip and Philippa Hickie at their Chatswood home in the 1970s.
Courtesy Hickie family
In early 1966 Philip relocated his family from Kings Cross to a Federation home in Chatswood. Shortly afterward he became head of design at the National Art School in Darlinghurst. In the mid-1970s he was a founding staff member of the Sydney College of the Arts as the Senior Lecturer in Industrial Design. Philip went on to Head of Division in the School of Engineering at the NSW Department of TAFE and also lectured in courses as diverse as computing, fluid mechanics and environmental planning during the following two decades.

As he began to step back from the hectic activities of his professional life, Philip became actively involved in local community affairs. The writer had the honour of working closely with Philip when he became secretary of the Federation of Willoughby Progress Associations in the 1990s. He had a close interest in local government and campaigned for sound urban design that protected the environment. After narrowly missing out in 1995, Philip was elected to Willoughby City Council in 1999 on a platform for a new civic centre “worthy of the size and aspirations of the City of Willoughby”. He went on:

We have to be looking at this critically all the time to see what’s reasonable and what’s not. What we want is good design, good planning and an environment that is really for the people and not necessarily inhibiting for developers–but their interests should not come first.2

Philip was re-elected to council in 2004, giving him the opportunity to play a key role in bringing his vision to reality in the grand complex, The Concourse.Willoughby City Council dedicated its involvement in the 2013 Heritage Festival to Philip Hickie, who served as chairperson of the Heritage Advisory Committee for many years. Philip was instrumental in the push for the Willoughby Civic Place development (The Concourse) and was passionately involved in its planning.

–Bob McKillop


1 Amanda Hickie, ‘Diversity at the heart of design success’, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 December 2012.

2 North Shore Times, ‘It’s Acropolis now for CBD’, cutting 199, Willoughby DHS.