William Nicolle Oats

William Nicolle Oats (191299), educator, author and peace activist, was born in Kapunda, South Australia, educated as a teacher at Adelaide University, and was headmaster of The Friends' School, Hobart (194573). He also taught at Adelaide High (193538), Geneva International School (19381940) and the experimental school Koornong (Warrandyte, Victoria), and was headmaster of King's College (now Pembroke, in Adelaide) and co-director of the International School, Geneva (194951).

Oats' experiences in wartime Europe (193841) led him to become a Quaker and pacifist. He evacuated students from Geneva to south-west France and then to England, and was deputy chief escort on a boat for child evacuees to Australia. Throughout his life he worked for international co-operation and helped found the Tasmanian Peace Trust. After retiring he completed his PhD, and published nine books on Quaker history, values and education.

Oats is remembered for his concern for nurturing the human spirit and creating a sense of community, often through singing. He believed that a caring school community and teachers' good relationships with students are critical in helping children develop a sense of identity, security and worth, leading ideally to a life of service to others.

Further reading and sources: W Oats, Headmaster by chance, The nurture of the human spirit, and Choose your dilemma: an Australian pacifist in Hitler's Europe, Hobart, 1986, 1990 and 1999.

Stephanie Farrall