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Gavin Greenlees (1897–1965)

A prominent Australian journalist who in recent years built up a children's peace army of nearly 2,000 children of trade unionists, died here last week.

He was Gavin Greenlees, whose sense of humanity and personality was such that, at 67, he was easily able to have the respect and love of this army of children, who saw him as one of themselves and as a real friend.

What had begun as a sidelight of his editorial work on the trade union journal "Building Worker" grew to become a massive correspondence with the children, a lively children's page in the journal, and an important aid to uniting further the members of the union.

This remarkable achievement was described by Building Workers' N.S.W. Secretary (Mr. Pat Clancy) at the large funeral last Thursday as a significant example of Gavin Greenlees' deep love of humanity.

"Gavin taught these children a love of Australia, respect for working people and a need for friendship between peoples of the world," Mr. Clancy said.

"He was fully committed to the ideas of peace and human progress and, though he will be sorely missed, he has left these ideas among many thousands, young and old."

Gavin Greenlees, who was an Anzac at Gallipoli in 1915 at the age of 17, became a journalist and remained so throughout his life.

In the early 1930's he joined the Communist Party and loyally and fearlessly advocated its principles and policies until his death from a brief illness.

He had entered journalism in Melbourne, worked on various Melbourne and Sydney newspapers and from 1927 until World War II worked as a sub-editor on the Melbourne Herald.

During the war, with the Army Press Division, he became editor of Guinea Gold, the Army's battlefront publication, operating in Lae and Rabual.

(When New Guinea Press Club members celebrated, in 1963, the 21st anniversary of the founding of Guinea Gold, Gavin Greenlees was given the honor of presiding).

After the war, he worked on N.S.W. newspapers including the Daily Mirror.

He spent two years in a journalistic position in the People's Republic of China and worked consistently for Australian-China friendship.

Then he worked as Public Relations Officer of the B.W.I.U. in Sydney.

Paying tribute to his services to Australian journalists through their union, the Australian Journalists' Association, the A.J.A. Federal Secretary (Mr. S. Crosland) said at the funeral that Gavin Greenlees had won the association's gold honor badge "for conspicious and meritorious service."

He had held various positions in Victoria, including president and vice-president; in 1937 he became a Federal vice-president, General President the following year, then General Treasurer for two years.

Later in N.S.W. he became vice-president and a director of the Journalist' Club.

Mr. Crosland added: "We knew him as a friend, a fine trade unionist, and a good journalist. 

"It was fitting that in the later years of his life he worked at the profession he loved for the trade union movement he loved.

"He gained great satisfaction by guiding building workers' children into an early understanding of the trade union movement."

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'Greenlees, Gavin (1897–1965)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 June 2024.

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