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Murray Norris (1910–1986)

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Murray Norris (1910-1986) wharf labourer, trade union official and Communist.

Birth: 16 December 1910 at Renmark, South Australia, according to his service record. Marriage: unmarried [service record]. Resided with Mary Norris according to Western Australian, Northern Territory and Queensland Electoral Rolls from 1954 to 1980. Death: 16 May 1986 at Royal Brisbane Hospital, Queensland. [Death certificate provided no details of birth or marriage.] 

  • One of nine children, he was mostly unemployed during the Depression, his first permanent job, aged sixteen, was droving in South Australia.
  • Waterside worker and joined Waterside Workers’ Federation in Sydney. Became involved in organising the unemployed movement in New South Wales. Joined the Communist Party of Australia in 1932.
  • Transferred from port to port around Australia including Bowen, Rockhampton, Brisbane, Lucinda Point, Urangan, Cairns, Newcastle, Melbourne, Geraldton, Bunbury, Albany, Burnie, Devonport, Hobart, Port Huon, Geelong, Fremantle, Mackay, Townsville and Whyalla.
  • Transferred to some of the ports several times including Rockhampton, Brisbane, Fremantle, Geraldton, and Whyalla. Also worked on wharf in Darwin. Became a member of the Australian Workers’ Union while working at mines in Mount Isa and the Northern Territory during World War II.
  • Gave his occupation as truck driver, living at Spear Creek, CCC camp, Mt Isa, Queensland, when he enlisted for full-time service in the Australian Military Forces on 28 March 1943. Worked as a cook. Discharged on 31 August 1944.
  • Voluntary Organiser from 1945 of North Australian Workers' Union (NAWU). Secretary of the NAWU from 1947 to 1949, president from 1949 to 1951. Served as industrial advocate for NAWU. Described by Bernie Brian as “tall . . . with a thin face, medium build and a tendency to ‘Always have a cigarette holder in [his] mouth’”.
  • Actively supported the peace movement. Was a strong advocate for Aboriginal rights and a supporter of Fred Waters.
  • Lived in Cairns, Queensland, from 1984.
  • Cause of death: disseminated malignancy.

Maritime Worker, February 1984 p.15; Murray Norris papers, Fryer Library, University of Queensland; Bernie Brian, The Northern Territory’s One Big Union; the rise and fall of the North Australian Workers’ Union, 1911-1972, (PhD Thesis, Northern Territory University, 2001): Thesis_CDU_6353_Brian_B.

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'Norris, Murray (1910–1986)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 April 2024.

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