Digby Graham Blight was born in 1930 at Merredin, in the central eastern wheatbelt of Western Australia, 300 kilometres east of Perth. In 1937, he and his brother moved to Perth to live with their Aunt and Uncle in Midland, going to school at Midland Primary. After finishing school in 1946, Digby went to Trade School. Digby soon became interested in technical drawing rather than Trade School and applied for a draughtsman cadetship in the public service. Twelve months too young to undertake the cadetship, he started working as a trainee junior clerk in the Forests Department until he was old enough to enter the cadet program. However, upon applying for the cadetship Digby did not meet the strict medical requirements and continued at the Forests Department, working on Timber Workers’ Registration Certificates.
“I can remember the day I started there I was introduced to the Chief Clerk… I remember him saying “You’re a tall lad, aren’t you?” And he asked me to write ‘Forests Department, Cathedral Avenue, Perth’ to test my handwriting and my spelling – Forests, one ‘r’. And I can remember him saying as though it were the other day “He’s got quite a good fist, hasn’t he?” That meant my handwriting was quite okay – so that was my test to go into the Registration Branch and write out Timber Workers’ Registration Certificates by the dozens, by the hundreds. I also – being the youngest in the room of course had to make the tea”.
Looking to proceed beyond the base grade level of the Public Service, Digby attended night school at the Perth Technical College and completed a Diploma in Public Administration. Digby later completed an Accountancy Diploma. To utilise his degree, Digby left the Forests Department in 1956 after being asked to go into the Public Service Commissioner’s Office to fill the position of Secretary of the Promotions Appeal Board and Secretary of the Public Service Appeal Board.
A few years later, the Government Gazette advertised a recruitment position that would require secondment to London. With his experience in employment selection processes and wide knowledge of trades, Digby spent two and a half years in London coordinating the Group Migration Scheme. This involved interviewing potential trade persons for immigration to Western Australia. Returning to Perth and the Public Service Appeal Board, Digby obtained several more promotions working his way to become Assistant Commissioner of the Public Service Board.
The change of Government in 1983 saw Digby working on the coordination of the Ministry of the Premier and Cabinet. Digby was appointed as Deputy Director to Bruce Beggs, moving twelve months later into the position of Director. “I’d never worked so closely to the political machine. I’d been in the personnel sector which was really safeguarded, it was arm’s length from the political machine”. Digby comments that at different stages in his career he was asked to join the two major political parties but firmly believed that his place was in the public sector, his fifty years in the public service moulding him as an independent.
After 10 years in the position of Director, Digby was looking towards retirement but was convinced by Premier Richard Court to take up the position of the Public Sector Standards Commissioner. “I had the ability to appoint my own staff so I brought in people who knew what they were doing. We didn’t rush it and we ended up with a very good set of standards which were launched in the right way”. After 50 years in the public service, Digby acknowledges the opportunities and promotions available to him in the public service saying that he had risen, professionally, a lot higher than he ever imagined he would.
30 June 1985 The day Digby was appointed Director General of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet “One of the proudest days of my life”.
Kathleen and Digby Blight on their Wedding Day 2 March 1957.
Swearing in ceremony of the Richard Court Ministry (Digby, front left) 16 February 1993.
Page last updated 27 September 2012