March 28, 2022
A stalwart of our Union’s southern district, Gavin Hamilton, passed away on March 23, aged 95 years. Decades ago, Gavin made industrial history with a pair of bolt-cutters.
Gavin was an active rank & file member who became Lodge President at South Clifton Mine where he worked for many years. He was also President of the Combined Mining Unions and was on the Southern District’s Board of Management.
In May 1972 mine owner Clutha sacked its workforce at South Clifton and closed the mine, citing the loss of contracts as the cause, an action which led to mining operations at South Clifton becoming unsafe. Clutha then padlocked off the power to the main ventilation fan of the mine. The 300 miners who had lost their jobs took action, mounting a stay-down strike. With the support of a large contingent of mineworkers from the Burragorang Valley, as well as busloads from the Wharfies and the Seamen’s Union, the South Clifton men prepared for a return to work.
It was Gavin Hamilton who took the crucial role of restoring ventilation to the mine, taking a bolt cutter to the padlock enabling the ventilation of the mine to be safely restored. Gavin created industrial history with South Clifton becoming the first coal mine in the western world controlled and operated by its workforce. The mine was reopened the following year with a new owner, Mining & Metals Corporation.
As both an elected official and a rank and file activist, Gavin knew that nothing had ever been gained without struggle. Having grown up in the coal mining community of Woonona he understood the needs of coal industry workers and their communities and worked tirelessly toward attaining them.
He has left behind some devoted friends, including former General Secretary, Barry Swan, and former Vice President Bob Graham. As well as their reminiscences of Gavin’s activism for the Federation, they remember him as having a mischievous wit, being a “handy” boxer, a keen punter and a snappy dresser.
May he Rest In Peace.