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Charles Henry (Charlie) Fitzgibbon (1922–2001)

This article was published:

Charles Fitzgibbon, 1978

Charles Fitzgibbon, 1978

ANU Archives, 1885/48161

Fitzgibbon, Charles Henry (Charlie) (1922-2001) waterside worker and trade union leader 

Birth: 17 January 1922 at Carrington, Newcastle, New South Wales, and registered as Henry, sixteenth of nineteen of native-born Martin Harrington Fitzgibbon (1878-1950), coal trimmer, of English heritage, and Mary Ann, née Preece (1884-1974), born at Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, England. Marriage: 1 June 1956 at the Presbyterian Church, Hamilton, Newcastle, NSW, to Jessie Anne Gertrude (Nancy) Evans (1918-d.c.1999), machinist, born at Grantham, England. Death: 19 February 2001. 

  • Educated at Cook’s Hill Primary and Newcastle Boys High schools.
  • Employed as junior clerk, Newcastle branch of Waterside Workers’ Federation (WWF) in 1938. Studied shorthand and book keeping, but from January 1942 worked on wharves when union office could no longer afford a clerk.
  • In July 1953 elected federal councillor WWF. December 1954 was elected president and vigilance officer of Newcastle Branch, WWF (full-time position.)
  • President, Newcastle Trades Hall Council from 1957 to 1958.
  • Succeeded Jim Healy as general secretary of WWF in 1961, but while Australian Labor Party-aligned (member of ALP State executive 1951-72) did not exclude communists from key positions in WWF. Dampened down industrial militancy at time of great structural change in industry creating stability on waterfront.
  • 1967 joined Australian Council of Trade Unions executive as transport group representative. Became senior vice president in 1981 and key supporter of R. J. L. Hawke, and was touted as his successor at ACTU.
  • Architect of the Accord, worked hard for International Labour Organization, was chairman of dockers’ section of International Transport Workers Federation. Whitlam government appointee to Australian National Line Board and Australian Shipping Commission. Appointed to Reserve Bank Board by Hawke government.
  • ‘…a man of notable ability, especially in administration and in framing resolutions which would outwit or sidestep ambushes from the Right. His rather frosty manner, his command of language and his capacity for sarcasm led many to fear him’. (D’Alpuget).
  • Appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in January 1984 for services to trade unionism and the transport industry.

Margot Beasley, Wharfies: the history of the Waterside Workers’ Federation (Rushcutters Bay, 1996); Labor Year Book, 1973; Sydney Morning Herald, 10 March 2001; Maritime Worker, 5 February 1974, May 1983.

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'Fitzgibbon, Charles Henry (Charlie) (1922–2001)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

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