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John Benson (1928–2017)

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John Benson (1928-2017) seaman, trade union leader, peace activist 

Birth: 24 August 1928 at Mordialloc, Victoria, son of Victor Garnet Benson (1887-1974), storeman, born in South Australia, and Honora, née O’Shannessy (1892-1930), who was born in Victoria. They had two sons and a daughter. Married: 31 May 1951 in Footscray, Melbourne, Wilma Joyce Leishman. Death: 12 April 2017 in Sydney, New South Wales. Religion: Catholic.

  • After period of service in Australian Navy joined Seamen’s Union in 1950. When he joined the navy in 1946 he was described as being 5 feet 8 inches (172.7 cms) tall, with brown hair, blue eyes and a medium complexion. He gave his religion as Roman Catholic.
  • Between 1950 and 1960 he worked on ships out of Sydney and Melbourne as a bosun. Union delegate on many ships, also chaired stopwork meetings.
  • In early 1950s he was central to Seamen’s Union establishing first roster system out of Melbourne. In 1956, while bosun on the Manunda, was instrumental in organising support for wharfies during 1956 strike. In late 1950s relieved in union’s Melbourne Branch office.
  • 1960, assistant secretary Sydney branch. From 1967 to 1990, secretary Sydney branch. Influential in union’s campaign against Vietnam War and setting up of swinger system, improved awards and amalgamation with Maritime Services Board maritime union.
  • Long term member of Australian Labor Party and peace activist. In 1973 represented ALP at World Peace Council (WPC). Made executive secretary of WPC. Member, NSW Administrative Committee; chairman, NSW foreign affairs committee; member of rules revision committee; executive member Labor Council of NSW (Water Transport) and member of Wages and Prices Committee. President, Sutherland district Trades Union Club.
  • Retired as presiding officer, Seamen’s Union in 1990.

Labor Year Book 1973; Seamen’s Journal, January 1961, September 1990.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Benson, John (1928–2017)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


24 August, 1928
Mordialloc, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


12 April, 2017 (aged 88)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations
Political Activism