Obituary – Gary Nicholls

Barbara Ramjan

Tribune published the following obituary on 9 December 1987:

Gary Nicholls died on December 1, aged 36. Gary joined the Communist Party of Australia during his schooldays, and later the ALP. He was active in student and left politics while a student and philosophy tutor at Sydney University, being a member of the national executive of the Australian Union of Students, and honorary secretary-treasurer of the Sydney University Students Representative Council.

Gary actively opposed the Viet Nam war and public in his stance as a conscientious objector. He took his Arts degree at Sydney University with honors in Anthropology and later his degree in law at the University of New South Wales, sharing the prize for the Lawyers and Society course. In addition, he sat as a member of the Students’ Appeals Tribunal.

While reading for his law degree he worked at the Department of Social Security, latterly as head of the NSW Aboriginal Liaison Unit. He was active in the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and was its delegate to both the national conference of the ALP and the NSW Labor Council. He also sat as a member of the Commonwealth Public Service Promotions Appeals Committee.

He served on the executive of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties and, after this call to the Bar in 1983, appeared in many cases for Aboriginal and disadvantaged people. Through 1983-86 he was the chairperson of the Marrickville Hospital Board and left full-time practice at the Bar to become the National Policy Analyst for the Australian Council of Social Service.

In September 1984 he was appointed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal where he continued to sit until prevented by his illness. He was appointed as a director of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Area Health Service in 1986 and elected as a Marrickville councillor in 1987.

Gary’s life was marked both by his energy in many fields and his social concern. His interests in history, the environment, the local and national heritage complemented the enormous collections of books and pamphlets embracing Australian politics and the involvement in them of the men and women of the left. His home, Cranbrook, at Camperdown, formerly owned by the Fowler Pottery family and adjacent to the old factory, was both a library and a living illustration of his interests. He was a founding member of the Marrickville Heritage Society.

Gary’s social activism started at school and never ceased. At university, his speeches, writings and activity were incessant. He was a continuous goad to his fellow students on political and social issues. In the whole of his public and private life he fought to better the lot of others and even when he knew of his own illness, he continued to battle on behalf of the tenants of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

He is survived by his wife Jane and son Matthew to whom Tribune and (and Hummer: ed) extends its sincere condolences. He is messed by his friends. We will all remember him.