The Inner West Sydney community, and many suburbs beyond to Penrith, lost a great activist for social and environmental justice on October 25. Victor Pinkerton took a keen interest in political matters — local, state and federal.
Victor came to recent local notice when the WestConnex toll road debacle began its incursion into Sydney Park’s edges.
He became well known for turning up to rallies and other gatherings, usually with banners, stickers or newspapers.
Whether opposing WestCONnex’s various tentacles, coal seam gas and coal mining in Sydney and across NSW, overdevelopment in its many horrors (including Mt Gilead’s threatened koala habitat, the demolition of Willowgrove and commercialisation of Sydney’s parks), Victor was there to publicise and oppose the shenanigans.
Many of us were recipients of his regular email news bulletins — summaries taken from various news sources and compiled in batches to save us researching for ourselves.
His emails always began with pithy summaries of the various goings-on at all levels of politics, often with amusing and sometimes obscure epithets for his favourite targets: corrupt politicians and other nefarious “influencers” (sometimes requiring a Pinkerton code book to decipher a few of his references and identify those on his hit list)!
Victor had a keen eye for just the right spot to place corflutes and stickers in streets for maximum visual exposure on election campaigns.
On street stalls he had a remarkable skill for persuading passers-by to sign up and engage in particular campaigns. He was an especially fastidious distributor of the City Hub.
Wearing his characteristic “uniform” of shorts, shirt, baseball cap and thongs, Victor had the enthusiasm and verve of someone much younger than his 69 years.
Rarely short of an opinion, or morsel of news from the grapevine, he was intent on the listener absorbing his account of the latest goings-on, or insights there from.
He would sidle up with the gentle Pinkerton nudge and begin a delivery with a speed that would make the fastest typist in the world envious.
Born at King George V Hospital, Camperdown, to a French mother Jeannette and Melanesian father George, Victor and his older sister Georgette (Georgie) experienced first-hand the injustice of racism — most of the time casual, but still hurtful.
Living on the border of Ultimo and Pyrmont, Victor attended Ultimo Public and Cleveland Street Boys High. In the early 1970s, his family home was resumed and demolished for the Western Distributor.
From this experience he absorbed the injustice of losing one’s home for a massive, intrusive road — the genesis of his lifelong activism.
Brought up with his father’s mantra, “Treat others the way you’d like to be treated,” Victor tried to live by this belief, for example helping to feed homeless people living under the viaducts in Wentworth Park.
Victor began an apprenticeship as an electrician with the Sydney County Council in 1970.
After qualifying, he went to Darwin in 1975, spending 18 months helping to restore power to buildings following the devastation of Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
He later worked on other large projects including the refurbishment of the Queen Victoria Building and the Bondi Outfalls Project from 1988 to 1992.
Victor was a strong union member and supporter, though retained a realistic view of their limitations.
Victor lived a full life. An enthusiastic traveller, he could recount stories and experiences from all over the world, at one stage living in Rio de Janiero teaching conversational English to local people for business purposes.
In the early 1990s, while living in Milan with his Russian girlfriend, he frequently accompanied her on business trips back to Russia.
Most recently, however, given his seeming indefatigability it was a terrible shock for his comrades to learn that in August he was diagnosed with a serious brain tumour that robbed him of speech and, ultimately, the possibility of recovery.
Following hospitalisation, Victor was transferred to a palliative care unit in a nursing home near to his beloved sister Georgie who devotedly cared for him and passed on the many messages of support received from his community colleagues.
We lost him in a few short weeks.
Victor died peacefully, but from the community’s point of view, all too soon.
We will greatly miss his cheerful and pithy humour, his omnipresence, his dogged commitment to justice and fairness and, of course, those weekly e-bulletins.
A private cremation was held. A memorial gathering will be held in early 2023. Victor is survived by Georgie, her three children and three grandchildren who are all very proud of him.
Rest in peace Victor — you sure have earned a break!