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Ray Gietzelt (1922–2012)

This article was published:

Ray Gietzelt, n.d.

Ray Gietzelt, n.d.

Ray Gietzelt (‘Gaffer’ or ‘The Godfather’) (1922-2012) chemist and trade union official

Birth: 29 September 1922 at Sans Souci, Sydney, New South Wales, son of Queensland-born parents Arthur Anton Gietzelt (1895-1993), electrician, salesman and manufacturer, and Ida Caroline, née Stoward (1895-1991). Marriage: 1945 at Rockdale, Sydney, to Violet May (Vi) Hinchliffe (1923-2013). Death: 12 October 2012 at Sydney. 

  • As youth, active in Australian Labor Party branch, Sans Souci, Sydney.
  • Studied chemistry at Sydney Technical College, working at chemical factory, prior to joining family tyre business. Joined Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union (FMWU) in 1941.
  • Enlisted in Australian Imperial Force in 1942 and served in south-east Asia. Discharged in 1945.
  • Part of protest committee of the FMWU that sought to wrest power from Industrial Groups. At one time member of the Communist Party of Australia. February 1955 became NSW branch president of the FMWU; from September 1955 part-time Federal general secretary; positions intermingled and held until retirement in 1984. Executive member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions from 1967 to 1984.
  • ‘Kingmaker’ of Labor politics achieving massive expansion of industrial influence of FMWU, organising numbers for Bob Hawke’s succession as ACTU president in 1969. Trustee Australian Labor Party NSW branch from 1971 to 1984 and prominent factional leader opposing NSW Right, assisting N. K. Wran’s moving to a Legislative Assembly seat (and therefore premiership) and Lionel Murphy’s Senate seat pre-selection in 1961.
  • Received death threats in the 1970s and bomb that exploded at brother’s home in 1971 may have been intended for him.
  • Following retirement, he became a member of the Qantas board and the Automotive Industry Authority and secretary of the Lionel Murphy Foundation.
  • Published his memoirs, Worth Fighting For (Brisbane 2004), and A short history of 9 Field Company R.A. E. (A.I.F.), (Anna Bay, 2006).

Margo Beasley, The Missos: A history of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union (Sydney, 1996); Federation News, May 1984, December 1990.

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'Gietzelt, Ray (1922–2012)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012