Hundreds pay tribute to union legend

Sunday, October 25, 2009 - 11:00

About 200 people attended a tribute dinner on October 17 to unionist and living legend Fred Moore.

Organised by the South Coast May Day committee, the dinner celebrated Moore's lifelong dedication to the struggle.

Speakers included Tony Maher, president of the Mining and Energy division of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU); Dootch Kennedy, chairperson of the Illawarra Aboriginal Land Council; Arthur Rorris, secretary of the South Coast Labour Council; Marg Perrott, vice-president of the May Day committee and Socialist Alliance member; and Garry Keane, president of the May Day committee and Port Kembla branch secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.

Moore has been active in the union movement for more than 75 years, since attending his first May Day march in 1932 as a 10-year-old.

Because of his leading role in the struggle for Aboriginal rights, he was made a blood-brother to the Jerringa people. He's a life member of the South Coast Labour Council and South Coast May Day Committee, which he chaired for 20 years.

Maher told the meeting that Moore was the most inspiring leader the CFMEU has ever had. "If morale was ever low in a dispute, Fred Moore's humorous and inspiring speeches would always convince us to struggle on."

He pointed out that Moore was the only CFMEU member to be given life membership while still working in the pits.

Kennedy spoke warmly of the political education he received with Moore while growing up. Kennedy's mother — Linda Davis — helped found the Aboriginal Advancement League with Moore in the Illawarra in the 1950s.

"I respect my elders, black and white, especially the ones who have fought hard for social justice", said Kennedy.

He also spoke of his concern at the policies of the current federal government including the NT intervention and the ongoing suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Perrott presented Moore with a photo album on behalf of the May Day committee. She spoke of his role in uniting people in struggle and his non-sectarian and inclusive approach to activists from different political traditions.

"Fred has always valued the role of young people in struggle too, and the vital role played by women", Perrott said. She pointed out that Moore is the only male life member of the Wollongong Women's Centre, and will always be remembered for mowing the Centre's lawns for so many years.

Moore's speech to the dinner, reflecting his humility, was all about other people. During disputes, "the women would never give up. They propped up everyone when the men wavered and that's how we won", he said.

Moore paid special tribute to the Aboriginal elders present at the dinner including Aboriginal Advancement League founder, Uncle Bobby Davis.

Moore's performance of "La Paloma" — an old Spanish civil war song — on a mouth organ brought the house down. Proceeds from the event were donated, on Moore's advice, to the Jumbulla Aboriginal Centre.

From GLW issue 815

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