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Labor legends help celebrate Thirroul’s centenary

Laurie Kelly, former Speaker of NSW Parliament and Member for Corrimal. Laurie's connection to the branch goes back to 1925 when his father was branch secretary. — with Jenny McAllister, Stephen Jones, Sharon Bird, Ryan Park, John Robertson, Ann Martin and David Campbell.

Laurie Kelly, former Speaker of NSW Parliament and Member for Corrimal (second from left at front) is pictured with Jenny McAllister, Stephen Jones, Sharon Bird, Ryan Park, John Robertson, Ann Martin and David Campbell.

OVER 100 people have gathered to mark the centenary of the Thirroul branch of the ALP.

At the Thirroul Railway Institute hall celebrations were State Opposition and NSW Parliamentary Labor Party Leader, John Robertson, and National ALP President Jenny Mcallister.

Current MPs Sharon Bird, Ryan Park, Stephen Jones and Shaoquette Moselmane MLC were present to help celebrate with the branch, as were former MPs David Campbell and Lawrie Kelly.

Mr Kelly’s connection to the branch stretches back to 1925 when his father was branch secretary. Labor councillors David Brown and Ann Martin were also on hand.

Thirroul Branch president Chris Lacey talked about the history of the branch’s formation in July 1913 and its first president, Johnny Strachan, from Austinmer.

“Basically, a preselection battle was on in the Illawarra, and one of the
candidates needed some more numbers,” Mr Lacey said.

“So he got 53 citizens to sign the Labor pledge one night and that was that, the branch was formed. The candidate lost the preselection but 100 years later, Thirroul branch is going stronger than ever.”

Mr Robertson gave a rousing speech on Labor’s return to core values, his back to basics approach, stressed the importance of listening to the community, and of necessary Labor Party reforms.

In the wake of recent ICAC investigations in NSW, Mr Robertson outlined strict new standards for elected Labor members in NSW, and called on the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, to match them.

Mr Robertson also paid tribute to former MPs David Campbell and Lawrie Kelly, who worked tirelessly for the community when they were elected.

National ALP President Jenny Mcallister drew upon Labor history and spoke about the first majority federal Labor Government led by Andrew Fisher a century ago. Fisher’s was a government seeking long term reform and improvements for working people in the great tradition of Labor, she said.

Both speakers acknowledged Thirroul Branch’s centenary commitment to the party, its support for Labor members and candidates, and its involvement in community affairs.

”The Thirroul Railway Institute was a fitting venue for the celebration, as
Thirroul Labor members were instrumental in saving and restoring the Railway Institute for the community,” Mr Lacey said.

To help launch the centenary, The Illawarra Union Singers were on hand and performed throughout the night. At the conclusion of the evening, the branch with a commemorative certificate on behalf of the NSW Parliament.

A book titled ‘Illawarra Agitators – A Centenary History of Thirroul Labor’ will be published later this year and a commemorative dinner will also be held in July.

About Mick Roberts

A newspaper journalist, writer and local historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in the Sydney and Illawarra regions of NSW for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides authoring a number of history books, Mick has owned and operated several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and is now with Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.

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