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Ronald Henry Brown (1916–1980)

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Ronald Henry Wells Brown (1916-1980) clerk, journalist, Communist and community activist 

Birth: 4 June 1916 in Toowoomba, Queensland, son of Harry Wells Brown [also known as Wells-Brown] (c.1885-1954), a staunch railway unionist and Communist Party of Australia member born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, and his first wife Queensland-born Lucy May (‘Ruby’], née Jordan (1892-1932). Marriage: 1 September 1945 in Brisbane to Clarice Adelaide Tonkin. They had two sons. Death: 30 July 1980 in Brisbane. 

  • Worked as a clerk, living in Coorporoo, Brisbane, in the 1930s.
  • In 1942 was national president of Eureka Youth League; ‘enthusiastic for ideas and had a tremendous interest in young people’, ‘developed a love of literature, reading and study’.
  • Member Queensland and Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia in the 1940s. Possessed significant research skills and “flair for writing” and assisted in wage campaigns of Queensland workers. Worked for many years in the Brisbane branch of the Building Workers’ Industrial Union.
  • Secretary for Fred Paterson during his term in Queensland parliament.
  • In 1949 moved to Darwin, Northern Territory, where became editor of Northern Standard, organ of North Australian Workers’ Union. Sacked in 1953 when industrial groups took control of union.
  • Returned to Queensland and resumed work as a clerk.
  • Active in opposing “the Vietnam war, uranium mining, the computer revolution, protection of the environment, the growing economic control of Australia by multinational corporations” and supported Aboriginal land rights.
  • Died of a heart attack [cardiogenic shock, mesenteric embolus and myocardial infarction].

(Sydney), 13 August 1980, p 14:; Barrie Blears, Together with us: a personal glimpse of the Eureka Youth League and its origins 1920 to 1970, (Leura, NSW, 2002); Ross Fitzgerald, The People’s Champion, Fred Paterson: Australia’s only Communist Member of Parliament, (Brisbane, 1997). 

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Citation details

'Brown, Ronald Henry (1916–1980)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


4 June, 1916
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia


30 July, 1980 (aged 64)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Key Organisations
Political Activism