On 31 May, Gaylene Seadon’s long fight with breast cancer came to a close. Gaylene, who was mother to Matthew and Katie, was 49 years old. She fought cancer in the same way she struggled against bosses, sell-out bureaucrats and patriarchs — with tenacity!
Until ill health slowed her down, I knew I’d find myself campaigning alongside Gaylene at every flashpoint of the class struggle. She was there linking arms on the MUA picket line, she campaigned against the closure of Richmond Secondary College and she boldly fought the right wing — mobilising against Pauline Hanson, National Action and right-to-lifers.
We first met Gaylene when she was part of the occupation opposing the closure of the Collingwood Community Youth Support Scheme by CYSS workers and the local community. After Gaylene lost this job, the Council of Single Mothers and Their Children (CSMC) were quick to spot an effective organiser and employed her. It was a job she held for many years. Gaylene hosted CSMC’s radio program, Fair Start, on 3CR. She was also a rank and file activist in her union, the Australian Social Welfare Union. The Freedom Socialist Party worked with her in the militant rank and file group which eventually led to the election of the Forward in Solidarity Team (FIST) ticket and in the collective which produced Rank and File News.
We worked closely with Gaylene in the Defend the Unions Committee. This very effective united front was formed to defend the Builders Labourers Federation after it was deregistered in Victoria by the Labor Government. It soon broadened its activities to include solidarity with all workers in struggle. No boss could ever mistake which side Gaylene was on — she made sure they knew! But many union officials also copped a vocal serve. Gaylene was a stalwart supporter of striking Leighton’s workers at the 417 St Kilda Road building site. She helped guarantee that the entire union movement knew of the role of “Black Bus Willie, the scab herder” and treated him accordingly! Sell-out officials got what they deserved from Gaylene!
Gaylene loathed ALP betrayals, and she fought many! She was determined to forge a working class party which she and others could feel proud to vote for. To this end, Gaylene helped found the Progressive Labour Party. She was President of its Melbourne North Branch and worked closely with others to resist the stifling of democracy within the party by its national leadership.
Gaylene will be remembered, and emulated, by many as a determined campaigner for the betterment of her class — and a warm and generous friend and comrade who loved to party!