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Tim Gooden -- "where there is an injustice...have a go rather than just ignore it.”

Left to battle at Trades Hall

Andrew Mathieson

Colourful murals line a wall of Geelong’s Trades Hall car park.

Among the union slogans, one image features a worker draped in a Eureka flag T-shirt, arms raised in triumph.

The stocky figure’s head is shaven short and the moustache seems unmistakable.

A grinning Tim Gooden (pictured) quickly points out: “That’s not me.”

The Geelong Trades and Labour Council secretary has heard the comparisons before.

“A lot of people say ‘That’s you’,” he adds.

“I say ‘I’m not that fat’.”

Sandra Krantz painted the rank-and-filed metal workers a couple of years before Tim arrived at Trades Hall. And he was a carpenter.

“Some union officials have called us (Geelong unionists of the era) all extras out of a Mad Max movie,” Tim laughs.

“Most of them were metal workers, some were carpenters, and they had motorbikes.”

The 46-year-old shaved off his trademark moustache on return from a recent visit to Venezuela in support of the country’s solidarity movement.

He started the trip with a handlebar moustache and a goatee out of concern that a clean-shaven look would play havoc with his passport photo.

“We were in the tropics there and it drove me up the wall the whole time,” he tells, shaking his head.

“When I got back I was getting hayfever and thought ‘That’s it’, so I shaved it.”

Ventures to far-fetched locations are not uncommon for Tim. But casual holidays aren’t.

Attending a Socialism 21 conference in Nepal, the Manifold Heights resident preferred to mix with socialists of different persuasions than a climb a mountain with a local Sherpa.

“If you have to put down a theology, I would have to be a Leninist,” he remarks.

Tim is a contradiction at first sight.

Sitting at Trades Hall in his stubbies and work boots, he rattles off about Marxist scientific analysis and the histories of capitalism, feudalism and collectivisation of labour.

“There are two papers I always read every day: Australian Financial Review and Green Left Weekly,” he then says.

Before leading rallies and protests through the streets of Geelong, Tim first pocketed dollars working on a dairy farm near Wollongong aged just 10 and later as a dairy hand at a Coles supermarket.

A shift to Canberra to help build the new Parliament House was just a precursor of things to come.

“I intended to stay for six months but ended up remaining there nearly 18 years,” Tim ponders.

Union leadership had never been on the agenda until he spent time on a road gang as a bridge carpenter. Painters and carpenters were told to operate machinery and take on each other’s jobs.

They had never heard of multi-skilling back then.

The now defunct Building Industrial Workers Union took up the fight but needed a delegate to voice its concerns.

“Everyone turned to me and said ‘Well, you do it’,” Tim remembers.

“I don’t know why that was but I wasn’t even the leading hand.”

Also a part-time New South Wales rural service firefighter and later a public servant, Tim climbed high up the union ladder.

When the ACT Government purged the Canberra public service, a law degree then beckoned at 35.

Life has taken other twists, like fighting bowel cancer during university exams and suffering ear damage.

Tim lost half his hearing in both ears during an explosion on fire brigade duties.

Despite being one of the last 23 picked to join the ACT fire brigade from about 5000 candidates, his industrial deafness counted against him.

“I fought that for a few years and I eventually got an apology and acceptance I could do that (work as a firefighter),” Tim muses.

“I have always had this sense that, where there is an injustice, you should sort of have a go rather than just ignore it.”

Image: Alex Bainbridge

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