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Mervyn Francis (Merv) Nixon (1923–1993)

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Mervyn Francis Xavier (Merv) Nixon (1923-1993) fitter, trade union official, community activist and Communist 

Birth: 1923 at Glen Innes, New South Wales; he stated on his marriage certificate that he was the son of native-born parents Edward George Nixon (1892-1964), engineer, and Gladys, née Munro (1904-1974). Marriage: (1) 18 September 1948 at St Joseph’s Church, Newtown, Sydney, to native-born Catherine Joan Mahony (1924-1992), stenographer. They later separated. (2) survived by his de facto wife Shirley. Death: 13 September 1993 in Bulli Hospital, Wollongong, NSW; usual residence Fords Road, Thirroul, Wollongong, NSW. 

  • Played and coached Rugby League as a young man. Moved to Wollongong in 1954 to play professional football with Thirroul, also started working on Port Kembla waterfront. Played in the watersider’s Rugby League team in New Zealand in 1957. Was vice-president of the South Coast branch of the Waterside Workers’ Federation in 1959. In 1960 became a full-time official for the Miscellaneous Workers’ Union. Joined the Communist Party of Australia.
  • Became secretary of South Coast Labor Council, succeeding Ted Harvey, in 1969. “Threw himself wholeheartedly behind the movement to establish a local university” and led the union campaign to raise funds for the cause. In 1985 was awarded a fellowship of the Wollongong University College Council.
  • Developed a close relationship with Illawarra teachers. Was involved in NSW Teachers' Federation campaigns in 1970s and 1980s including support for a month-long strike at Warilla High School in protest against the NSW Education Department victimisation of teaching union activists, gaining a swimming pool at Para Meadows Special School, gaining release time for infants and primary teachers and an improved staffing formula for secondary schools.
  • Following the death of R. F. X. Connor, was CPA candidate for the Federal seat of Cunningham in a by-election in October 1977, and in the general election in December that year.
  • Granted life membership of NSW Teachers' Federation in 1981, the first person outside of the union to gain this honour.
  • Changed his name by deed poll during the Vietnam war to dissociate himself from the actions of President Richard Nixon.
  • Appointed to the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ Trade Union Training Authority. Also active in anti-nuclear movement and the fight for Aboriginal rights and women’s rights.
  • Resigned from the CPA national committee and from the Labor Council secretaryship in June 1987. Awarded Order of Australia Medal (OAM) on 26 January 1989.
  • Was appointed a member for five years of the Wollongong Sportsground trust on 1 July 1987. The local Rugby League team named its new grandstand at the Wollongong Showground after him in 1992.

Sources
Education
, 11 October 1993, No. 291, p 17; obituary Greenleft website: https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/merv-nixon-1923-1993.

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Citation details

'Nixon, Mervyn Francis (Merv) (1923–1993)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/nixon-mervyn-francis-merv-34160/text42856, accessed 25 May 2024.

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