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Davies, Trevor Edward (1956–2011)

by Malcolm Brown

from Sydney Morning Herald

It was a long way from East Tilbury, England – where Trevor Davies was born of a Welsh father – to Redfern in inner Sydney. But once he arrived, he embraced the suburb, along with its tiny neighbours, Darlington and Chippendale – the colourful, if embattled, pockets of Sydney's urban heart – and incorporated their spirit.

Davies started a newsletter, Chippo Politics, which grew to become the South Sydney Herald, the voice of the people from Sydney's forgotten inner core. The expanded paper developed a mutually respectful relationship with South Sydney Council and community leaders. As the ultimate test of its impact, the paper was read by politicians of all varieties.

Working at a newsagency in Abercrombie Street, Davies was not averse to rushing out and stopping a person of any description or status, including a minister of state or a bishop. ''He was such a warm, friendly person, no-one would take offence at Trevor asking them about their life and things like that,'' said his editorial colleague, Dorothy McRae-McMahon.

''He saw the newspaper as a way of communicating his concerns. He was a devout Christian, in terms of his social justice work.

''He lived in Redfern-Oh. That's because when the local people tell an outsider they live in Redfern, the reaction is 'Oh!'''

He was founding editor of REDWatch, the journal of a community group that covers the suburbs of Redfern, Eveleigh, Darlington and Waterloo.

Trevor Edward Davies was born on May 25, 1956, the second child of four to factory worker and union shop steward Gwynfor Edward (Taff) Davies and English-born Constance.

He started his education at Stanford-le-Hope primary school in Essex. At the age of 10, he set up an ''insurance'' scheme for children in his neighbourhood. They gave him a penny which they would claim back if and when their parents hit them.

In 1964, Trevor took a sickie from school to watch the election result and was elated when Harold Wilson took the prime ministership.

The Davies family came to Australia in 1966 as ''ten-pound poms'' and Trevor went to Cammeray Public School – then Chatswood High School – where he started the school newspaper. Taff died in 1969 and for the next few years, Constance struggled to bring up four teenagers. Together with her mother-in-law, Constance cleaned houses to make a living.

Davies attended the Church of Christ in Crows Nest and, for a time, studied at the Churches of Christ Bible College. As an asthma sufferer with a speech impediment, his health was always a major concern. But he took up various jobs, including a position with South Sydney Council.

In 1979, he moved to Redfern and joined the Labor Party. In 1983, he became secretary of the party's Darlington branch. Such was his interest in politics that then federal MP Peter Baldwin arranged for hard copies of the Hansard to be sent to him.

In 1991, Davies started Chippo Politics, publishing 2000 copies in A4 format. It was circulated mainly in the Chippendale-Darlington area. Four years later, it evolved into the Redfern Chippo Herald. It had minimal paid advertising but was circulated to about 5000 households. It filled a need. South Sydney had no local paper that focused on its own area; The Courier's content related to a more general zone.

In 2000, the South Sydney Uniting Church took over the Redfern Chippo Herald. The Reverend Vladimir Korotkov, Davies and McRae-McMahon, formerly minister at the Pitt Street Uniting Church, decided to make the paper more professional and more financially viable. It was renamed the South Sydney Herald and had 16 pages – later expanding to 20 in tabloid format. Its circulation went up to 22,000 on the back of stories that were overlooked by the mainstream media. The designer, printer and small advertising staff were paid but the rest were volunteers, including students who were in their final year of journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Davies spent most of his days sitting in a cafe in Abercrombie Street, near the newsagency where he had worked, speaking to everyone around him. In 2008, he stood, unsuccessfully, for election to the City of Sydney council.

Davies's death was announced in Federal Parliament by frontbencher and federal member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek. At his funeral at Pitt Street Uniting Church, former premier Kristina Keneally said: ''Trevor and I didn't always see eye to eye but we shared three core beliefs: that South Sydney is a unique and remarkable community; that the Labor Party is the greatest political agent for social justice; and that the Christian gospels preach a message of love and acceptance.''

Trevor Davies is survived by his sisters, Susan and Annie, and his brother, Ivor.

Original publication

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 July 2011

Other Obituaries for Trevor Edward Davies

Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Davies, Trevor Edward (1956–2011)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/davies-trevor-edward-16825/text28719, accessed 23 August 2019.

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