The history of May Day is one of great celebration and events of significance for those committed to a vision of a fairer, just and more sustainable world.
This year SPAN member Bobby Anderson celebrated his 60th year as a union member. He joined the BWIU (Building Workers’ Industrial Union) in 1951. The BWIU in Queensland later amalgamated with the CFMEU (Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union). Bob became the first Aboriginal union organiser in Queensland. His many contributions were recognised in 2000 when he received an honorary doctorate from Queensland University of Technology.
In 2010 the Queensland Council of Unions, created the Uncle Bob Anderson Award which will be given to the outstanding Indigenous union activist each year during NAIDOC celebrations. Through the naming of this award, Queensland unions have honoured Uncle Bob for his outstanding and continuing service to the union movement.
In August 1991, Jeanie Bell interviewed Bob about his memories of political activity in the 1950s and meeting Celia Smith when they were both members of the Queensland Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Jeanie included this segment from that interview in her book about Celia:
“Well there was limited activity around that time, so there were few organisational structures that challenged the government, which challenge the Act at all. There were some murmurings, I became active in the early ‘50s. I joined the BWIU in 1951, having completed a five year apprenticeship as a carpenter in 1949. The BWIU had a very good policy in regard to people’s rights and one of those of course was rights to Aborigines, and they paid a fair bit of attention to it. There were some politically–minded people in organisations at the time who saw the rights of Aboriginal people, and were prepared to assist Aboriginal people to do something about it, to develop the skills in public speaking and they were better able to enunciate their position.” — Talking About Celia: Community and Family Memories of Celia Smith, University of Queensland Press, 1997.
Bobby, kasama, your sustained vision of a fair, just and sustainable world keeps us strong. Thank you.