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Gavin Hamilton Sutherland (1893–1970)

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Gavin Hamilton Sutherland (1893-1970) letter carrier, clerk, trade union official and parliamentarian

Birth: 15 February 1893 at The Rocks, Sydney, New South Wales, son of William James Sutherland (1858-1956), seaman, trade unionist and sometime president of Darling Harbour Labor League, and native-born Clara Margaret, née Dwyer (1868-1934), schoolteacher. Marriage: 1 May 1926 in St Patrick’s Church, Sydney, to native-born Sushanna (Susie) Slatter (1893-1980), secretary of the Telephone Officers’ Association. Death: 17 August 1970 in hospital at Burwood, Sydney; usual residence Carshalton street, Croydon. Religion: Catholic. 

  • Educated at St Patrick’s Marist Brothers school, Church Hill. Joined Postmaster General’s Department in 1911 as a letter carrier.
  • Foundation member and active in Letter Carriers’ and Postal Workers’ Union. Member of disputes committee during 1917 strike; out of work for some months.
  • Employed at Cockatoo Dock in 1918. Joined Ironworkers’ Union. Transferred to Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) in 1918. Exec. member AWU until 1930, additional organiser and returning officer.
  • Delegate to Australian Labor Party’s West Sydney federal electorate council; secretary and member of central executive in 1917-1921, 1926-1927, 1931-1932, federal executive 1918-1920. When he visited Western Australia as delegate to the Interstate Labor conference he objected to staying at the Savoy Hotel “on the ground that such a swank establishment was not any place for a true-blue representative of the working-class”.
  • Expelled from the party over complicity in electoral box scandal in 1923. Reinstated after an inquiry. Described that year as once “a very advanced red-ragger who sang the ‘Red Flag’ on the slightest provocation, Federal Labor in 1930s.
  • Employed as clerk in electricity department of Sydney City Council; transferred to Sydney County Council from 1935. Joined Federated Municipal and Shire Council Employees’ Union of Australia (MEU) in 1930; member of executive, vice-president in 1946; NSW president from 1952 until he retired in 1967 and was made a life member.
  • Delegate to NSW Labor Council for about 30 thirty years. Delegate to ACTU. Delegate to annual conference of Australian Labor Party. Member of the Labor Day Committee from 1950 to 1970. Twice president, trustee Trades Hall.
  • Joined Darling Harbour (Labor) League in 1909, president and secretary from about 1912 to 1922. Croydon branch member from 1926, president.
  • Elected a member of the indirectly elected NSW Legislative Council on 2 March 1956 (casual vacancy on the death of Peter Fallon). Remained a MLC until his death. Opposition whip from March 1966 to 1970.
  • Vice-President of the British Parliamentary Association, NSW branch.
  • Cause of death: coronary occlusion, atherosclerosis and carcinoma of stomach.

Heather Radi, Peter Spearritt & Elizabeth Hinton (eds), Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament 1901-1970 (Canberra, 1979); Counsellor, No 1978; Australian Worker, 15 February 1922.

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'Sutherland, Gavin Hamilton (1893–1970)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012