Graham Kent Hill OAM, who passed away on July 4, will be remembered for his contribution to both education — as a teacher and Federation Organiser — and to the Sutherland Shire community as a Director and President of the Sutherland District Trade Union Club.
Graham was born at Homebush on April 18, 1938. He was educated at Homebush Public School and completed his Leaving Certificate at Homebush High School in 1954. At Bathurst Teachers College he trained as a primary school teacher and was then appointed to Broken Hill, where he taught from 1957 until 1959. In those days, Broken Hill was very much a “union” city and this would have influenced his later life.
In 1960, he was transferred to Bundeena Public School where the principal, Alex Elphinstone, was an active Federation member.
In 1961, he was transferred to Laguna Street Public School (Caringbah) where he remained until 1967 when elected as an Organiser in the NSW Teachers Federation, a position he held until his retirement.
In 1963, he was elected Secretary of the Sutherland Teachers’ Association and became President in 1964.
At that time there were many young teachers in the Shire and one of Graham’s ideas was to set up a “Social Committee” to organise activities to encourage these younger teachers to participate in the Federation. For several years the Association held an Education Week Ball at the Cecil Ballroom in Cronulla.
Sutherland Teachers Association became one of the strongest Associations within the Federation.
After his election as an Organiser, Graham was allocated an area in western Sydney plus the huge area of north-western NSW. He would spend two weeks in Sydney and then two weeks in the country. When Federation Council met, his unit in Cronulla became home for delegates from country colleges.
Later, the General Secretary, Ivor Lancaster, asked Graham to take on the position as Organiser for the Trainee Teachers. In that position Graham influenced many trainees to become active members.
In later years, Graham reverted to an Area Organiser, once again covering many city Associations such as Sutherland, Fairfield, Liverpool and Inner City.
There is no doubt that Graham was one of the best Organisers Federation has had.
In 1961, a number of unions that had branches in the Shire decided to work towards setting up a club where union members could meet and hold social functions. Graham became a foundation member of that club on November 11, 1961.
The Tradies gained its licence in 1963, and in 1964 Graham was elected as a Director. He held that position until February 25, 1979 when he was elected to the position of President — a position that he held for 32 years until he retired in 2010. In all, Graham served the club for 47 years.
The club was originally a house on the corner of Manchester Road and the Kingsway, Gymea, with 200 members. Each member had a key to gain access. There were three employees.
Today, we have more than 50,000 members and three locations — Gymea, Caringbah and Helensburgh. Ours is one of the largest clubs in southern Sydney and, thanks to Graham, it is profitable, but we serve the community and have a policy of supporting sporting clubs and organisations that serve those who need help.
In 2012, Graham’s work in the club and the community was recognised by the award of an Order of Australia Medal.
Finally, a word about Graham as a person. His many friends were proud to have known him. He was always calm, logical and respectful of others. He was a true gentleman. Within Federation and the Tradies Club he was respected by all who had contact with him. He cared about people.
His death was a sad occasion but we remember all the fine things at he did throughout his life.
He helped people who had problems, and he cared about people.
He was a loving husband who always referred to his Dianne as his “Treasure”.
He was a treasure to all who knew him.
Bob Sharkey is a NSW Teachers’ Federation Life Member and a Tradies Director