|Issue No 6||26 March 1999|
Wharfies Help Out Aboriginal Kids
By Zoe Reynolds
The Maritime Union and P&O Ports have provided Aboriginal children at La Perouse with a new pony club - a 20 foot shipping container.
The 40 kids have gone without since the old clubhouse was burnt down during an arson attack a year ago. So club supporter Martin Doherty thought something fireproof might be the best bet. He contacted the union and organiser Glen Wood began the search for a suitable container.
Finding and discarding a few battered old specimens around the cities dockyards, he eventually found a beauty -- it even had windows. But it belonged to P&O. While eyeball to eyeball at the negotiating table wrangling over their enterprise agreement, the Maritime Union and P&O Ports decided to cooperate and help out the kids.
Glen approached P&O terminal manager, White Bay, Jeff Diggle, who agreed to donate the container. Next problem was how to move the 2.5 tonne box. P&O has a haulage company out at Botany. Diggle suggested Wood give David Howe a call. Hearing the container was going to the kids at La Perouse, Howe agreed to donate a swing lift truck to get it there.
"It's an excellent example of unions and employers working together in the best interests of a community project," said MUA Branch Secretary Robert Coombs.
"We always try to help good community causes and this time we were grateful to be able to do something because the people involved with the club backed us last year during the waterfront dispute."
The Maritime Union has a long history of support for Aboriginal Australians, including the La Perouse community. In 1956 the Seamen's wives committee raised funds from ships' crew nationwide to help set up the first club for children at La Perouse. They bought tables, chairs, blackboards, footballs, dolls and a rocking horse.
Over the years both wharfies and seafarers have thrown parties on the docks and ships for outback mission children, funded scholarships for Aborigines to attend university and given their support to equal pay campaigns like the stockmen's strike for equal pay in 1966.
In 1971 wharfies made world headlines after donating $10,000 to the Gurindji land rights claim. And each year the MUA donates around $5,000 towards Sydney's Tranby (Aboriginal) College.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005