PETER Barrack, who was a household name as a union leader during his time at the head of Newcastle Trades Hall Council, died on Friday, aged 84.
His wife, Di Barrack, said her husband had been seriously ill and "in and out of hospital" for more than a year with renal problems that followed an earlier bout with prostate cancer. He died on Friday morning of acute renal failure.
Ms Barrack said the long weekend had complicated funeral arrangements, but the service was likely to be towards the end of next week.
Although trades hall (nowadays known as Hunter Workers) is still an important organisation in Hunter politics and community affairs, it was considerably more powerful in the years before the modern decline of the union movement.
Mr Barrack was trades hall secretary from 1979 to August 2000, a 21-year stretch that ended weeks before his 65th birthday.
A devout left-winger whose long-term membership of the Communist Party of Australia unsurprisingly drew the attention of Australia's main security organisation, ASIO, Mr Barrack also lent the weight of trades hall to various campaigns that were designed to benefit the Hunter Region as a whole.
The most notable of these was probably trades hall's support for a Newcastle bid to build the Navy's fleet of ANZAC frigates. Although the main contract went to Melbourne, a substantial portion of the hull construction was done at the Port of Newcastle.
Mr Barrack was also president of Newcastle Workers Club at the time of the earthquake and through its rebuild and eventual sale to the Penrith Panthers organisation. The club would later become part of Newcastle's Wests Group.
Mr Barrack's community involvement including leading roles in May Day, Vietnam Moratorium, anti-Apartheid, peace and Indigenous rights groups. At the same time, he was held in respect by business and political leaders of the day, holding roles in more mainstream organisations including the Hunter Development Board.
As our photograph below shows, he even ran on a Newcastle City Council ticket in 1986 joining John Tate's Independents Group.
Ms Barrack said her husband had kept up his political and community interests despite his failing health, attending Hunter Broad Left dinners and other occasions when he was able.
"It's been a while since he retired when you think about it, but nobody will argue the fact that he was very well respected by all of the parties, not just the union movement, but the business sector and even the conservative politicians," Ms Barrack said.
Read more in Monday's Newcastle Herald.
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