Merv Nixon, 1923-1993
WOLLONGONG — Former South Coast Labour Council secretary and well-known Communist Party identity Merv Nixon died at Bulli Hospital on September 13 after a long battle with illness.
Arriving in Wollongong in 1954, the young Balmain rugby league player started working on the Port Kembla waterfront. In 1960 he became a full-time official for the Miscellaneous Workers' Union and was the architect of the organisation of that union into one of the strongest unions on the coast. At this time Merv joined the Communist Party.
In 1969 his organising abilities were applied to the task of organising the whole regional labour movement when he became Labour Council secretary. He held this position till 1987. The last 10 years of his leadership were probably some of the most difficult times the Labour Council ever faced, with the massive lay-offs in the steel industry.
Under Merv's leadership, the Labour Council took an active role in all the social movements of the day, including the Vietnam Moratorium, the anti-nuclear movement, the fight for Aboriginal rights and women's rights.
His broader contribution to the community was evident from the large number of tributes paid to his life in the past week. The local first grade rugby league team, the Illawarra Steelers, recognised Merv's contribution to the region when they named their new grandstand after him in 1990. Merv had his critics in the labour movement, but he never lost his concern for the less well-off members of the community. He is survived by his wife Shirley.