It is with sadness that the Evatt Foundation received news of the passing of our former President (1998–2006) and Life Member, Bruce Childs on 4 May 2023. His contribution to the labour movement has been nothing short of extraordinary. An etcher by trade, Bruce became a giant of the Australian labour movement, and has both inspired and instructed the generations that followed him with his time, his wisdom, and his grace to become active in political life. His commitment to promoting social justice, equality, democracy, and human rights was unwavering. Whether agitating on the shop-floor, advocating for workers as a union leader, building the Socialist Left as a powerful, progressive force within the Australian Labor Party, serving as a Senator for NSW, or throughout his post-parliamentary career, when he was active in the Evatt Foundation — as President and a long-term member of the Executive — he brought his intellect, patience, and faith in humanity to his many years of service. Above all, he brought both a principles-based approach and commitment to collectivism and democracy to his politics. He was a quiet achiever and didn't put his own self- interests first, but elevated others around him whom he admired and thought would do a good job of creating positive change for the working class. A long-standing advocate for peace, he played an integral role in the Australian peace movement as convenor of the Nuclear Disarmament Co-ordinating Committee and organiser of the Palm Sunday peace marches throughout the 1980s. And he was active again in organising the 2002 Palm Sunday peace marches to protest against the Second Gulf War. He was a pioneering advocate for encouraging young women to become actively involved in politics and the labour movement, and gave his time to mentor a number of young activists. One of whom, Tanya Plibersek MP, cites Bruce as her hero and in her tribute to Bruce at the event marking 40 years of the Evatt Foundation, Tanya told a fitting collection of stories as testament to the kind of person Bruce was. As President of the Evatt Foundation for eight years, he continued the legacy of Doc Evatt — both Bruce and the Doc were internationalists and intellects. Bruce was instrumental in shepherding the Foundation through a period of transition at a strategic level, and he also got his hands dirty with the work that needed to happen to continue the Foundation's mission of upholding the highest ideals of the labour movement: fom stuffing envelopes and proofreading publications to providing sage counsel on strategy, Bruce made an unmatched contribution to the Evatt Foundation. In recognition of his contributions over 21 years — eight of which were serving as President — Bruce was voted a life member of the Evatt Foundation: a rare honour in our Foundation's history. Bruce will be dearly missed, and our thoughts are with Bruce's wife, Yola, his family, friends, and all those who had the honour and pleasure of crossing paths with this giant of the labour movement.
The Evatt Foundation
6 May, 2023
* Bruce's entry in the Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate — authored by former President of the Evatt Foundation, Christopher Shieil — is available here.
** A copy of Tanya Plibersek MP's speech at the event celebrating 40 years of the Evatt Foundation, at which she pays tribute to the legacy of Doc Evatt and Bruce, is available here.