The Riverine University League was a single issue regional pressure group, based on and funded by local government organisations. Originally known as the Riverina Councils' University League, it changed its name to the Riverine Councils' University League within months of its establishment in 1952 in the hope of attracting support from councils in north east Victoria as well as from those in southern New South Wales. Although it attracted some Victorian backing, most of the League's forty six institutional members were from New South Wales. In 1959, when it was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee, it took the name Riverine University League.
Under the leadership of Dr William Andrew Merrylees (1900-69) the League come close to securing the establishment of a Riverina University College in 1966-67, and was instrumental in persuading the New South Wales Government to establish the Riverina College of Advanced Education in 1971 as a genuinely regional institution, with campuses initially at Wagga Wagga, Albury and Griffith.
The largest and most important accessions of records (RW74, RW624) comprise the papers of the president, Dr Merrylees, who served until his sudden death in 1969. A Rhodes Scholar and former senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of Melbourne, Merrylees had been involved since 1936 in the management of a family property, Groongal Station, Hay (RW75), becoming widely known for his pioneering experiments in large scale irrigation. Active in a number of regional development organisations - among them the Murrumbidgee Valley Water Users' Association, the Murray Valley Development League (RW214) and the Lachlan Valley Development League - Merrylees was a prolific pamphleteer and writer, who maintained an extensive correspondence with many key figures in Australian politics and education. His correspondents include Sir Kenneth Bailey, Professor J.P. Baxter, C.E.W. Bean, Sir John Behan, A.G. Enticknap, MLA, Sir John Gorton, Eric Hoare, Sir William Hudson, G.V. Lawrence, Sir Leslie Martin, Sir Robert Menzies, Professor E. Morris Miller, R.W. Prunster, Hugh S. Roberton, MHR, Sir Ian Wark, Sir Alan Watt, and E.R. Wilson.
Compiled by : Don Boadle.
Sources : Boadle, Donald, Selling the Rural University: W.A. Merrylees' Writings for the Riverine University League, Wagga Wagga, 1986; ________, 'The Idealist as Lobbyist: W.A. Merrylees and his Campaign for an Australian University' in D. Stockley (ed.), Melbourne Studies in Education, Melbourne, 1989-90, 34-48; ________, 'Critics of Australia's Binary Policy: the Riverina University College Debate, 1965-67', History of Education Review, 23 (2), 1994, 18-31; ________, 'William Andrew Merrylees (1900-1969)' in John Ritchie (ed.), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 15, Melbourne, 2000.
Photograph : W. A. Merrylees by Ian Merrylees.