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James Bernard (Jim) Maher (1927–2009)

James Bernard ('Jim') Maher (1927-2009)

Birth: 20 August 1927. Death: 17 December 2009.

  • Educated at Christian Brothers College, Clifton Hill in Melbourne;
  • Worked for Norman Makin who was a Methodist lay preacher and federal MP for Hindmarsh and minister in Curtin government; Worked at Department store, Paynes Bon Marche, Melbourne;
  • Joined Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), 1946; Delegate to Branch conference, 1948;
  • Delegate to Victorian Trades Hall Council, 1948;
  • Delegate from Metropolitan Division to State Conference 1950? or 1952?; Member, Victorian State Council; Represented Victoria at National Conference, 1952-1968 continuously;
  • Resigned from Paynes Bon Marche to take position of Country Organiser, SDA, Victorian branch 1956-1968; Assistant State Sec. Vic. Branch 1968-1971; State Sec. Vic. Branch, 1972-1991; Elected National Vice-President, 1968; National President, 1970-1995;
  • From 1970s union's internal dynamics changed from being described at the time as 'conservative, undynamic and defensive' with influx of new members growing from 57,000 Australia-wide in 1971 to about 250,000 in 2009; Challenges to control of SDA occurred nationally in mid-1970s, including challenges to Maher's leadership which he sustained;
  • Joined ALP as a teenager; Resigned in mid-1950s during the time of old alliances splitting; Also SDA, Victorian Branch disaffiliated from ALP at the time and didn't re-join until 1984 in Maher's latter period as State secretary; Unclear as to whether Maher joined Democratic Labor Party, but nevertheless supported its position similar to many politically active Catholics in Victoria at the time;
  • Represented union on study tour of US and Europe, 1955; SDA Rep. Food Group on Executive of Victorian THC; Executive member, ACTU 1980-1993 and five years as vice-president. In this capacity Maher promoted financial and moral support to the Polish union and social movement, Solidarnosc (Solidarity). SDA sponsored several visits of Solidarnosc leaders to Australia in 1980s;
  • Rep. on World Exec. Committee of international union federation, FIET;
  • Founding member, Retail Employees Superannuation Trust Scheme and remained active until 2008 when he stood down as director;
  • Awarded Order of Australia; Honoured by Polish Government

Shop Assistant, March 1977 p.7; Sydney Morning Herald, 'Timelines', 4 January 2010.

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Citation details

'Maher, James Bernard (Jim) (1927–2009)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


20 August, 1927


17 December, 2009 (aged 82)
Victoria, 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