Ron Giffard

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Port Adelaide Library:

South Side

Name added to memorial 2006

He was nominated by the SA Unions (formerly Trades and Labour Council of SA)

Ron was born in Sydney in 1929.

He worked as a deck boy during World War II at the age of 15 sailing on British and Scandinavian ships. He returned to the Australian coast in 1955, working as Union Delegate on many ships and relieving as Secretary of the SA Branch of the Seamen’s Union.

On January 24 1959, the MV Yandra sailing in thick fog, ran aground. Attempts to launch lifeboats failed so Ron swam ashore with a line in dangerous conditions due to strong currents and sharp rocks. He rigged a Breeches Buoy between the ship and shore rescuing all 22 crew members for which he was awarded the royal Humane Society Silver Medal.

Ron was elected Secretary of the South Australian Branch of the Seamen’s Union in 1964 showing outstanding skills negotiating an ITF agreement for the crew of the Greek registered ship Aegian Dolphin.

His evidence at the Commission of Enquiry into the sinking of the Dredge W D Atlas in Jervois Bay with the loss of 13 seafarers led to radical changes in Commonwealth Navigation and Compensation Laws.

Ron represented the Seamen’s Union at a number of International Gatherings. He was in Moscow on May Day 1969, then Leningrad, then Berlin for the 5th International Trade Conference of Transport and Fishery Workers.

At the opening of the Seamen’s Union building at 11B Nile Street Federal Secretary E V Elliot thanked Ron Giffard for initiating the project and bringing it to fruition. It was the first structure the SUA had designed and built.

He was a member of a Trade Union delegation that visited Vietnam in August 1972. He was moved by the plight of the Vietnamese, upon returning to Australia he vowed to stop the war. His activities during the Anti Vietnam Moratorium led to the newly elected Whitlam Government withdrawing Australian troops and the collapse of US involvement in Vietnam.

Ron played a leading role in imposing sanctions on Greek Shipping forcing the release of Greek Seaman Union Official Tony Ambetellis from prison for his involvement against the Greek Military Junta.

Ron exceeded his duties in support of overseas seamen on Flag of Convenience Vessels, particularly helping underpaid and starving Filipino sea men

Ron Giffard was a true son of the working class and devoted his entire working life to the betterment of mankind.

SA Unions Janet Giles Notes

Contemporary press clippings: