Vale Brian T Manning – celebration update

In Darwin, the memorial service and celebration of Brian T. Manning’s life was on Wed 13th Nov hosted by the MUA at Stokes Hill Wharf at 3pm followed by a wake at the Railway Club in Parap, with The Hot n’ Cold Big Band. From Brian Manning jnr ‘In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the restoration of my Dads old Bedford. I am looking at setting up a crowdfunding site where people can make donations to the restoration or failing that a replicated model of Dads old truck which holds a significant place in the Territory’s History. Donations for the Trucks restoration can be deposited to:

BSB 802884 Acc # 54667S1 NT Special Purpose Fund
Update: Bedford truck going to Museum
Photo of Brian Manning (right)

Brian T Manning

Brian T Manning

Update: Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Wave Hill walk-off, when 200 Aboriginal stockmen and their families walked off Wave Hill Station, 600 kilometres south of Darwin, demanding better working and living conditions.
What started as an industrial dispute would become the first successful Aboriginal land rights claim and a legendary civil rights campaign.

Memorial: Over 250 people gathered at the Stokes Hill Wharf in Darwin on that steamy afternoon to remember and celebrate Brian’s life. The ceremony was hosted by Thomas Mayer, Secretary of the Darwin Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (see below).

The ceremony ended with close family friends and the children and grandchildren who made wonderful statements, and Jon and Brian Jr performed a song ‘Freedom’, especially composed for their father.

Brian Manning Jr committed to maintain his father’s life and legacy, on behalf of his descendants. He urged them to be active, do what they enjoyed, make a contribution where possible, develop wide interests during their lives, work at many vocations, develop skills, be eager to learn, and most of all love their family.

After a heavy downpour, a group of Gurindji women performed a Bukulatjpi family dance from Galiwin’ku as half of Brian’s ashes were scattered into Darwin Harbour. The other half will be scattered at Wave Hill at the next anniversary of the famous 1966 Walk Off.

A group of 20 Gurindji people came all the way from Galiwin’ku to pay their respect, led by Maurie Jarpata Ryan, now Chairperson of the Central Land Council, and Jimmy Wave Hill. Maurie said that Brian helped make the land rights movement in the NT, and make modern Australia, and that he should have a state funeral. Jimmy Wave Hill remembered Brian driving the Bedford truck with much-needed supplies to the river bed at Wattie Creek. “He saw us living in those little tin boxes, and he didn’t turn his back,” said Jimmy. “He never turned away from us”.

Bill Day was also a Watersider with Brian and also a founder of the NT Aboriginal Rights Council. He related Brian’s strong and constructive way of building the campaign, and also many long drives in “The Truck”.

Jan Richardson also used a story of Brian going to Melbourne in 1961 to find out about the structure and rules of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines & Torres Strait Islanders to show his self-effacing character, his profound sense of equality with everyone. others made their contributions.

On behalf of the SEARCH Foundation, Peter Murphy who had come from Sydney made a tribute and also read a statement by President Rob Durbridge and Coordinator Penny Sara.

“Dear friends, on this day of sadness and celebration of the life of Brian Manning

On behalf of the Committee and members of the SEARCH Foundation, we send condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Brian Manning. We join with you to celebrate a wonderful life lived to the full, and to commemorate Brian’s many contributions to the struggle for a better world and a just society.

Brian went to the Northern Territory as a young man and for six decades was involved in left and progressive movements in the Territory, Australia and internationally. For activists in progressive movements around Australia over more than 40 years ,Brian was well known for his principled and selfless support for some of the most important causes in Australian society.

Brian’s work in support of the Gurindji and other Indigenous peoples in the NT, in solidarity with the independence struggle of the East Timorese people, for the conditions and rights of workers, particularly on the Darwin waterfront, and ending the war in Vietnam, will forever stand as testament to him and his comrades.

Brian’s actions in hiding Malayan pearl divers facing deportation from Darwin in 1961 and the successful national campaign to allow them to ‘stayput’ contributed to the eventual demise of the White Australia policy. Brian Manning The ‘Stayput’ Malayans

The practical support he organized for the Gurindji during their historic walk-off and strike in 1966 was a crucial element in their eventual victory over the Vesteys pastoral company and the granting of their land rights by the Whitlam Labor Government.

Similarly, Brian’s courageous, dedicated and skillful organization of the illegal radio link with the Fretilin independence movement was a crucial international solidarity action that contributed to victory of the independence movement after 25 years of Indonesian occupation.

A member of the Communist Party from the 1950s, Brian knew how to work with others to build broad support and effective movements for progressive causes.

Brian fully supported the CPA’s 1967 adoption of a democratic vision of socialism and its subsequent condemnation of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that crushed Alexander Dubcek’s attempt to build a democratic “socialism with a human face”.

SEARCH and former CPA members around Australia are proud to have worked and been associated with Brian Manning. While we deeply mourn his passing, we salute his many contributions that have left a permanent mark in Australian life.

SEARCH will discuss the establishment of a permanent memorial that can continue to support the causes to which Brian contributed so much, which we are sure he would commend.

Peter Murphy, former Coordinator of SEARCH, is able to attend on our behalf and speak about Brian’s role at the commemoration. We thank the family for the invitation to contribute to this testimonial.
Rob Durbridge
Penny Sara

After the main speeches I contributed my condolences. I arrived three years ago in Darwin and Brian had been tipped off I was coming and to give me a report. I knocked on his door, and sat down for three hours to hear the story of his political life most of which was recorded at this service. I recounted how Brian was well enough to present his story of the historic Wave Hill strike and land rights struggle on 25th September 2013 at the Australian Curriculum Studies Association Living History session in Darwin, with Ted Egan singer and former Chief Administrator NT, Japarta Ryan Central Lands Council and Professor Kathryn Moyle, Charles Darwin University.

I am proud to have met and listened to Brian Manning’s stories and politics in Darwin. He was instructive in his political actions as a Communist member of CPA and the Search Foundation;
as a militant unionist Wharfie in Darwin Secretary WWF- life member of MUA and founder of the NT Trades and Labor Council now Unions NT;

Brian strongly supported the BLF Green Bans movement; in the struggles such as banning uranium export and battling in the end his union leadership and the ACTU forcing the lifting of the bans; of how his political leadership in the union meant on the day of hearing of the jailing of Clarrie O’Shea wharfies immediately took solidarity strike action – that together with thousands of other workers and their unions meant the end of the penal powers against strikes – a failure of today’s union leaders he often was critical of;
of how to attract younger activists he had to make sure CPA meetings were not dominated by Wharfie issues; and in all these it was as his role as a Communist, how he worked with the CPA members and the southern leaders; the arguments against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia with fellow Communists on the waterfront; I bought to the ceremony a poster “How to Spot a Communist” -a favorite of Brian’s.

Brian told the story of his role in the Aboriginal Land Rights particularly the NT Council for Aboriginal Rights where he drew up the Constitution making sure aboriginal people controlled the organisation and his role in the historic Wave Hill strike and formation of the Land Rights struggle;
see Brian here on YouTube
The 6th Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture Delivered by Brian Manning Charles Darwin University
23rd August 2002

Brian Manning’s speech on the 45th Anniversary of the Gurindji walk off and Gurindji Freedom day.

Ripples From Wave Hill

Brian Manning cited in the NT MUA branch news november 2011 and on the Wave Hill strike and land rights struggle
Featured in Gurindji Freedom Day

Brian was a critical historic player with his solidarity with the East Timor resistance in running the clanderstine radio links to the fighters in the mountains of East Timor and hailed as a hero by the East Timorese and Brian was remembered for his critical solidarity with the Timorese peoples, the Maubere peoples, and his fierce loyalty to FRETILIN, the independence party with whom he publicly aligned himself until the end; I was proud to be asked to read the following Fretilin tribute:
“Dear relatives and comrades

My thoughts are with all of you who are sharing the pain of loosing a special father, grandfather and a great comrade. I regret for not being able to be there to deliver my tribute to this companheiro de luta, comrade Brian Manning.

What can I say? There is no vocabulary that can describe Brian´s memorable work during his lifetime. Brian dedicated his life to support the struggle of oppressed and colonised people for freedom and independence as well as the rights of the workers and their respective families to have decent living standards.

I met Brian for the first time in 1976 and had the privilege to work with him on my special mission in Darwin as FRETILIN militant.

I witnessed his unequivocal dedication to our struggle for independence. He did it very consistently over the years. He decided to support FRETILIN goals unconditionally when many people hardly believed that the independence of Timor-Leste could ever be achieved. He was one of the main activists and comrades that worked very hard to maintain and re-establish the radio station in Darwin, the only link that FRETILIN had with the outside world, in the mid seventies. Through this radio link, news on many Indonesian atrocities reached the international community. Through this radio link, it was possible to receive messages on the resilience of the Maubere people, our determination to fight against the odds for our independence. The radio link was a very important mission at that time and Brian and other comrades made it possible, despite many constraints. He also contributed to the campaign for the independence of Timor-Leste trough other ways.

What Brian did for Timor-Leste is impregnated in the history of our struggle for freedom and Independence.
Member of Parliament and former PM
Member of the Central Committee and
National Political Commission of FRETILIN”

Brian Jr read a message from FRETILIN President Francisco Guterres ‘Lu Olo’: “In the most difficult times of our struggle, the Australian Government turned its back on us, but Brian Manning was always with us and gave us informative support, courage and determination for us to continue the struggle. FRETILIN has lost a great brother and friend. His soul will remain with the Maubere people”.

Brian got me to take the resistance receivers to Dili to present to the Fretilin Congress in 2011.

Brian was strong in his anti-Vietnam war activity. I was able to convince him to come to some recent political actions, against the US Darwin Marines base with Basewatch in Darwin – he described PM Gillard as a traitor to Australian Independence; Brian was in the photos Standing Up for the Burrup; he attended APHEDA NT Ged Kearney ACTU Darwin meeting: he participated in the SEARCH Foundation Darwin and his support for the Palestine struggle never wavered. He supported many social justice issues and was an advocate for the womens’ and gay liberation movements.

Brian put a lot of time into community work: Darwin Hospital Advisory Board, Commissioner on an Enquiry into Workers Compensation, Education Advisory Council, Founding Secretary NT Trades & Labour Council, Supervisor and Secretary of the Board of Crisis Line, President Stuart Park Primary School Council to mention a few. Brian was 2010 NT Senior Citizen of the Year.

He started work as a junior Clerk at the age of 17, and for the next 17 years, he searched for his niche. Brian worked as a storeman, builder’s labourer, carpenter’s offsider, spray painter, builder, panel beater, Patrol Officer, airport fireman, barman, club manager, steel erector, building contractor and rural worker.Brian said he found his niche in 1966 and became a Waterside Worker on his 34th birthday. He spent the next 35 years working on the Darwin Waterfront in various capacities, mostly as a Union Official and member of the National Council of the Union in the latter 4 years. When the CPA decided to join into the New Left Party in 1991, he joined the NLP and also became a member of the SEARCH Foundation.

I would have liked to have known him when he was young. He was a dance teacher and a musician and in the jazz era in his band. He loved jazz and was a great trumpet and sax player himself, and helped turn the Darwin May Day into a musical celebration. His son Brian played him some of his favorite trumpet pieces in the last days at the hospital and at the Railway Club in the Swing Band.

His MUA Secretary Thomas Mayor was with him.

Brian Manning2 final

From Thomas Mayor Secretary MUA NT: “Vale Brian Manning

Brian Manning, one of the Northern Territory’s most respected activists and trade unionists, passed away surrounded by friends and family at the age of 81.
Manning was a wharfie and staunch MUA member up until his retirement in 2002. He continued to be very active in the trade union movement until his passing. He was famous in the Top End for his social activism, most notably, perhaps, for his role during the Wave Hill Walk-Off.
In 1966 a group of Aboriginal people led by Vincent Lingiari walked off the job at Wave Hill Station, 600km south of Darwin, in protest of wages and conditions.
This action, supported by the trade union, was central in paving the way for Aboriginal land rights.
The struggle lasted for nine years until in 1975, then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, handed over a parcel of land to the local Gurindji people.
During this struggle, Manning and his J Series Bedford Truck, which is now heritage listed, supported the striking workers camped at Wattie Creek (Daguragu) by running supplies to and from Darwin.
On the 40th Anniversary of the Walk-Off Manning told the ABC his story: “I loaded this little Bedford with about three tonne of stuff. God, it took nearly two days. “I think we had to camp half way. The roads were shocking – there were no bitumen roads, there were diversions all around the place.
“They were making the roads, you see, so it was terribly corrugated. We managed to get there the second night about 9.30pm and drove down into the bed of the river where they were all camped, you know and there was great exhilaration by these people that help had arrived in respect of food.”
Manning also used his truck to erect an antenna to establish communications with the underground movement (the Fretilin) in East Timor in the early days of the Indonesian invasion. He campaigned strongly for East Timorese self-determination.
At the 2011 Fretilin Congress Manning was applauded by 700 Fretilin members for his efforts of coordinating the establishment of the communications in difficult conditions.
Manning, who in 2011 was unable to attend the congress due to the stress of his ailing health, was still greatly loved and revered by the East Timorese people.
Prior to the Wave Hill Walk-Off Brian Manning was instrumental in setting up the NT Council for Aboriginal Rights and he was also a co-founder in the NT Trades and Labour Council.
He was recognised for his hard work by becoming a Territory finalist for Australian senior of the year in 2010, the same year he was named Darwin citizen of the year, accepting his prize wearing a Morning Star tie in support of the West Papuans’ struggle for independence.
One of his most recent achievements was relocating and refurbishing the Seafarer’s Centre at Darwin while he was voluntary chair of the Darwin Port Welfare Committee.
Although he was too sick to attend the grand opening, he said he was very proud of the work he had done with the voluntary committee, in getting somewhere safe for visiting seafarers to recuperate.
Northern Territory Branch Secretary Thomas Mayor said that Manning was a supreme mentor and a pillar of support.
“When I first became an official, I knew where to go to learn the lay of the land both politically and practically,” Mayor said.
“One of the most difficult issues was worker’s compensation. I knew that Brian was on the Board of Inquiry held that was completed in 1984 and that set the foundations for workers compensation for Territorians today, so I went to him for guidance.
“I was also interested in working towards Indigenous advancement and of course Brian’s reputation in this area is second-to-none. I spent several afternoons with Brian talking about these issues. He never once tried to tell me what I should do, but his grasp on history and his no nonsense approach have guided me since.”

Brian Aaarons was unable to come to the Memorial. I read this out:
“I deeply regret that I am unable to attend today’s memorial for Brian Manning in Darwin. I am sure it will be a fitting tribute and memorial for Brian’s massive contributions to the many movements for a better world and a society of justice and dignity for all.
I first met Brian when I was a young delegate to the 1967 Congress of the Communist Party of Australia. Already at that time he was renowned for his work over the previous months organising practical and political support for the Gurindji people during their historic walk-off and strike at Wave Hill station. He spoke at the Congress about this struggle, and spent time with delegates from around the country to discuss ways of further strengthening the solidarity movement in support of the Gurindji. Over the next few years we were in regular contact in the national Save the Gurindji Campaign.

Thirty years later I was working for the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, which in 1996 inaugurated the Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture to mark the 30th anniversary of the Gurindji walk-off. The 1996 lecture was given by the Governor-General, Sir William Deane, and subsequent lectures were given by dignitaries such as Gough Whitlam. Fittingly Brian gave one of the lectures a few years later, covering the practical aspects of the Gurindji’s struggle, including the contributions of the solidarity support movement in which Brian himself was central.

In 2008-09 I was working in Darwin and saw Brian regularly. At that time he gave me an original hand-written letter which had been sent to him by my father, Laurie Aarons. Laurie was the CPA national secretary and wrote to Brian as the CPA Darwin branch secretary. The letter makes clear that the CPA was mobilizing nationally to support the Gurindji struggle.

Brian of course made many other contributions to a wide range of causes. As we mourn his passing we salute a life spent fighting for the interests of the poor and oppressed, against disadvantage and discrimination, and for a better social order at home and abroad.”

See on Facebook photos of celebration on SEARCH site.

Many positive thoughts about this historic comrade.
ABC News report
Condolences to his family. If you wish to send a condolence message to Brian’s family, you can send it to Brian Jr at

I hope his life will be recorded some more.
Here are some more of his speeches, stories etc.
About Brian
Brian actively opposed Australia’s continued implementation of the White Australia policy in action in 1960’s to stop the deportation of indentured labour from the pearling industry after working more than a decade here. He is in favour of a multi-cultural Australia, has many Moslem, Jewish and Christian friends and is an unapologetic atheist.

More here: On November 3, 2013, Brian Manning — veteran Northern Territory communist, trade unionist, campaigner against racism, long-time activist for Indigenous people’s rights and solidarity campaigner with the East Timorese people (among many other causes) — died in Darwin. Brian won enormous respect for his commitment to human rights and his unstinting dedication to changing the system. As a tribute to Brian, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal highlights one important chapter in his inspiring political life: his important role in the historic struggle of the Gurindji people for their rights. By Terry Townsend
[The following is an excerpt from The Aboriginal Struggle & the Left (Sydney: Resistance Books, 2009.]

The story of his Bedford J Truck

Rough Reds – on the Timor Leste resistance

On the illegal radio

With radio

Vale Brian Manning

I went to a launch of a new book, “Conflict in the Unions The CPA and the Trade Union Movement, 1945-60” by Douglas Jordan; a good chapter on the CPA and aboriginal rights – and Brian gets a few pages.

Red Flag latest has a story on Brian.


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2 Responses to Vale Brian T Manning – celebration update

  1. Jan Richardson November 6, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    Brian was also a great family man who passionately loved his siblings, his own children and grandchildren and kinship families. He was a great musician, passing on to his son Brian Jnr his saxophone skills and other musical abilities as everyone at The Workers’ Club knows so well. He was a beautiful dancer and as a young man in a small country town played music with his sister at weekly community dances and taught the youths to dance. These parts of his personality are totally congruent with his love of all humanity (except the bastards) and his terrific contribution to society wherever he went. Jan Richardson

  2. Jan Richardson November 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    error – apologies – I meant music at The Railway Club, not the Workers Club, Jan Richardson