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Norman Randolph Freehill (1892–1984)

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Norman Randolph Freehill, born Norman Freeberg (1892-1984) journalist and Communist 

Birth: 21 March 1892 at Annandale, Sydney, New South Wales, son of August Freeberg, a seaman, later overseer, and Anna, née Johnson. Both parents had been born in Helsinberg, Sweden. Marriages: (1) 21 February 1914 in St Stephen’s Catholic Cathedral, Brisbane, Queensland, to native-born Alice Gladys Kinealy (c.1892-1962). They had one daughter and one son. (2) from 1949 was partner of native-born Ellen Dymphna (Nell) Cusack (1902-1981), author. They married on 21 June 1962 at the register office, Crowborough, East Sussex, England. There were no children of this marriage. Death: 30 April 1984 in a nursing home at Sydney, NSW. 

  • Father arrived in Australia, according to family legend, by jumping ship in 1870. Birth Register gives the phonetic spelling of 'Freeberg', instead of 'Friberg'. In 1927 Norman anglicised the name to 'Freehill' for security reasons.
  • Educated at William Street Public School, Sydney. Family settled in Woolloomooloo.
  • Left school at 12 years of age and became messenger boy for Angus and Robertson. Cadet with Evening News in 1906. Collector and assistant commercial editor with Daily Telegraph, Sydney, in 1911.
  • To Queensland in 1913 and became financial editor with Brisbane Daily Standard. Sub-editor of Brisbane Worker in 1916 at least.
  • Had joined NSW district of the Australian Journalists’ Association (AJA) on formation in 1911. Transferred to Queensland district AJA in December 1912, was its secretary from 1913 to 1914, member 1915-1917 and acting secretary, president from 1917 to 1919.
  • Transferred to Sydney and appointed to NSW District committee AJA 1922, president 1922-23 at least and during mid-1940s. Representative on federal tribunal NSW district AJA in 1921 at least.
  • Audodidact and highly skilled propagandist for socialism including wordsmith and tactician; worked 'under cover' for the newspaper 'Knowledge and Unity', a pro-Bolshevik paper under the name of Civa Rosenberg 1918-1919 at least.
  • Anti-conscription campaigner with Queensland Socialist League about 1916 and active in Industrial Workers of the World. Editor of Common Cause the Miners' Federation newspaper, in 1922 at least;
  • To Sydney by 1927 to concentrate on earning a living for his family. Financial editor Bulletin; Private practice as a financial company consultant to J. B. Were & Son.
  • To Melbourne and became finance editor of Melbourne Herald in early 1930s. Chief executive of H. Byron Moore, Day and Journeaux, the second biggest stock and share broking business in Australia, from about 1934 to 1941.
  • His work and participation in yachting allowed Norman to fraternise with rich businessmen with no-one being aware at the time of his socialist sympathies. Returned to Sydney in 1943 and was deputy chief of staff on Daily Telegraph to 1949. Also chief of staff of Tribune and Marxist class and public lecturer from 1946 to 1949. Edited magazine Russia and Us for Australian-Russian Friendship Society in late 1940s. Close friend of J. B. Miles until his death in 1969 and was active in Communist Party of Australia decision-making. “(T)he financial whizz . . . Freeman] was J. B. Miles's 'bagman', his courier, his undercover operative in matters of Capital”.
  • In 1949 Freeman left Australia to live in London with his partner Dymphna Cusack, leaving his wife. Set off soon after arriving in London on a Soviet Friendship tour of United Kingdom. Delegate to 1949 Dutch Peace Congress in Amsterdam and delegate to Second World Peace Congress in Warsaw in 1950. From there embarked on extensive travelling, living in the countries of socialism from Albania to China for some twenty years.
  • First elected foreign member of Chinese Journalists' Union supervising all work in English at Peking's Foreign Languages Press, 1956-1958. Wrote for Moscow press in 1960s. Both Norman and Dymphna were on first name terms with Nikita Khrushchev and Kliment Voroshilov.
  • Returned to Australia during the 1960s. Disagreed with the CPA criticism of Soviet Union in 1968.
  • Cause of death: cerebral thrombosis and cerebral arteriosclerosis.

John Playford, Doctrinal and strategic problems of the Communist Party of Australia, 1945-1962, PhD thesis, ANU, 1962, p 420; Tribune, (Sydney), 16 May 1984; Australian Journalist, 15 September 1923, p 153; Overland, 161.2000, Marilla North: 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor...who was Norman Randolph Freehill, pp 36-41.

Additional Resources

  • ASIO file, A6119, 1424 (National Archives of Australia)

Citation details

'Freehill, Norman Randolph (1892–1984)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012