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Tuesday, 26 May 1987
Page: 3363


Mr ROBERT BROWN(10.21) —On Wednesday, 6 May 1987, George Henry Neilly died after a long illness. George was a former long-serving State member for the New South Wales electorate of Cessnock. He was a former member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, former General Secretary of the Miners Federation, former Northern District President, former Lodge officer and former serviceman with the Royal Australian Navy whose war service included the battle of the North Sea and the battle of the Coral Sea. He died during Coral Sea week.

George Neilly was born in Kurri Kurri on 3 March 1917. His mother died shortly after his birth and he was reared by his grandparents in Abermain. He attended Maitland Boys High School. George obtained employment at the Abermain Colliery in 1934 and remained employed there until, like all junior mine workers, he was paid off when he turned 21. He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1939. From 1939 until 1944 he served in the Royal Australian Navy. After his discharge he resumed work at Abermain No. 1 Colliery, was elected Secretary of the Miners Lodge and later became an industrial advocate for the Miners Federation. In 1950 George was elected Northern District President of the Miners Federation and four years later he became General Secretary of the Federation when the Australian Labor Party was attempting to reassert its position in the trade union movement.

George's son, Stan, has a 1952 letter to George from the Secretary to the New South Wales Governor, offering him the Order of the British Empire. George Neilly was elected as a Labor member of the Legislative Council in September 1954. He had also served as a member of the New South Wales State Executive of the Australian Labor Party. George was campaign director for the late Dr H. V. Evatt when he stood for the Federal electorate of Hunter in 1958 after transferring from Barton. In 1959, at the request of Premier Joe Cahill, he sought and obtained ALP endorsement for the Cessnock State electorate. He resigned from the Legislative Council and in the ensuing State election he succeeded the late Bill Crook as State member for Cessnock. He held that seat until he resigned in 1978. During the time that George Neilly represented Cessnock it became one of the safest seats held by the ALP in New South Wales. George had a reputation for never turning anyone away. There are hundreds of families on the northern coal- fields which were assisted in some way by George Neilly.

George was recognised throughout the trade union movement as an outstanding advocate. His speaking talents were impressive. He was a forceful, logical and effective debater. In his later years George did not always enjoy the best of health and he became quite ill in July 1986. That period of illness persisted until his death. George was proud of his contribution to the Labor movement. He was proud of his community, he was proud of his family, and he was proud of the fact that he was born in Kurri Kurri, reared in Abermain and lived most of his later life in Cessnock. These towns tied George to the South Maitland coal fields.

George's widow, Lola Neilly, is an outstanding and gracious woman who provided immeasurable support for George. He married Lola Wood when he was serving in the RAN. They both displayed in many ways their warm affection for the people of the coal fields. They have always defended them passionately. Following George's retirement in 1978 I had the honour of representing the coal fields in the New South Wales Parliament before I transferred to this Parliament. I, in turn, was followed in Cessnock by George and Lola Neilly's son, Stan, who continues to represent Cessnock with that well known Neilly vigour and commitment. George is survived by his wife Lola, his son Stan, his daughter, Mrs Noelene Fletcher, Noelene's husband, Norman, and the three grandchildren, John, Alina and James. George's funeral was held on Saturday, 9 May. He was laid to rest in Kurri Kurri cemetery.