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Union giant left his mark with dignity

By Nick O'Malley, Syndey Morning Herald,
Saturday 9 December 2000

The union movement lost one of its elder statesmen with the death of former ACTU president Mr Cliff Dolan, AO, on Thursday night.

At the time of his retirement in 1985, when he was described as the second most powerful person in Australia, Mr Dolan, known as Bill by his family, was one of the longest serving union officials in the country.

In 1949, after five years as an electrician, Mr Dolan became an organiser for the Electrical Trades Union and progressed through union ranks until he became president of the ACTU in 1980.

Mr Dolan was known for his unassuming leadership style, in stark contrast to the man he replaced, former prime minister Mr Bob Hawke. One journalist described him as being as Australian as the drought.

During his five years as president he was instrumental in the development of the prices and wages accord.

Mr Dolan also had a reputation for compassion. He was the inaugural president of the union movement's overseas aid arm, APHEDA, an organisation to which he donated much of his own money on retirement.

I will always remember Cliff for his great personal dignity and his unfailing desire to help people in any way he could, said ACTU assistant secretary Mr Bill Mansfield. Mr Dolan, who died at his home in West Ryde, is survived by his wife of 56 years, Peg, sons Kerry and Paul and six grandchildren. His funeral will be at St Michael's Church in Meadowbank on Tuesday at 1.30pm.