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Issue #1696      August 5, 2015

Vale Kevin Cook (Cookie) 1939-2015

It is with great sadness that the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) reports the passing of Kevin Cook (Cookie as he was affectionately known), who passed away peacefully at the nursing home in Summer Hill where he has lived since the passing of his partner Judy a couple of years ago.

Kevin Cook (Cookie)

Cookie was a proud and much admired member of the Wandandian mob from the South Coast of NSW, and was one of the giants of the Australian and international labour movement and Indigenous movement. His brother Ron, a seafarer is a longstanding member of our union from the WA Branch.

Cookie is probably best known in more recent times as the long time leader of Tranby Aboriginal Cooperative College in Glebe in Sydney, but he had a long history as an Indigenous activist spanning many of the great pioneering struggles of the late 20th century including land rights, legal services and Indigenous education and training as the basis of Indigenous self-determination for which he had a great passion.

Cookie was one of the leaders of the NSW Builders Labourers’ Federation, along with Joe Owens, Jack Mundy and Bobby Pringle, at a time when it was at the cutting edge of innovation in trade union organising. They led many of the great social struggles of the 1970s and ‘80s that have shaped Australian society and the left since that time – the urban environmental movement, trade union democracy and workers’ control, support for the culture of the working class, the peace movement, the anti-uranium mining movement, women in non-traditional work and a host of other progressive and radical initiatives.

Cookie had a long association with the MUA and its leaders in the Waterside Workers’ Federation and the Seamen’s Union of Australia, particularly through the Reverend Alf Clint going back to Elliot V Elliot, Pat Geraghty and Jim Healy. A number of MUA leaders have served as directors on the Tranby College Board, including Taffy Sweetenson, Laurie Steen, Paddy Crumlin and Robert Coombes. Cookie had a close personal relationship with many MUA officials, officers and members, and he loved the MUA, just as we loved him.

Cookies’ life story and his relationship with all the people, movements and causes he was associated with is contained in the book that Cookie and Heather Goodall wrote called Making Change Happen, published in 2013. The book contains interviews with MUA leaders and its production and launch was supported by the union. The book is essentially a manual for organising and networking for which there was no better participant and advocate than Cookie.

Cookie was a compassionate and much respected elder who attracted, encouraged and inspired so many people in his Indigenous and trade union work in Australia and in the international movement for self-determination and liberation of Indigenous people. He will greatly be missed by his family, his clan, his friends and all those whose life he has touched.

We will never forget you Cookie. We will miss you comrade. Rest in peace after a wonderful life of humanity and humility. The world is a better place for your presence.

Next article – Labor’s path to cruelty and harm

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