Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Joseph Clarke Pereira (1907–1985)

by Bobbie Oliver

This article was published:

Joseph Clarke Pereira (1907-1985), trade unionist and Australian Labor Party organiser, was born on 3 June 1907 at Geraldton, Western Australia, son of Joseph Herbert Pereira, a miner from New South Wales, and his Western Australian-born wife Ellen Josephine, née Clarke.  Educated at Christian Brothers’ College, Kalgoorlie, Joe began work as a miner.  He joined the Kalgoorlie-Boulder section of the Australian Workers’ Union’s mining division and was elected president in 1934.  He then became an organiser for the union.  On 29 October 1932 at Wesley Methodist Church, Perth, he had married Mona Joy Merrifield, a nurse.

Moving to Perth, Pereira worked for the Western Australian Government Tramways and served first as president and then secretary (1949-56) of the Western Australian Government Tramways, Motor Omnibuses and River Ferries (and Fremantle Tramway) Employees’ Union of Workers.  By the mid-1950s he had gained a reputation as a top industrial advocate.  In 1956-71 he was paid general secretary of the Western Australian Police Union of Workers.  He held executive positions in the State branch of the Australian Labor Party, first as president of the metropolitan district council and, in 1958-60, as State president.

In Western Australia, unlike the other States, the State executive of the ALP also performed the functions of a trades and labour council; in 1957-63, with F. E. Chamberlain, Pereira represented Western Australia at conferences of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.  At the 1957 conference the two men unsuccessfully opposed a motion calling for the creation of an independent trades and labour council in Western Australia.  When the Trades and Labor Council of Western Australia was formed in 1963, Pereira agreed to be president, perhaps to counter the influence of non-ALP members.  (Sir) David Brand’s Liberal-Country Party government then introduced wide-ranging industrial reforms, designed to reduce the power of trade unions.  The TLC executive, led by Pereira, opposed the changes, which involved replacing the Court of Arbitration with the Western Australian Industrial Commission and the Western Australian Industrial Appeal Court.  On 20 November 1963 the TLC led the State’s first general strike.  While the strike did not prevent passage nine days later of the legislation, it established the TLC’s authority as the representative industrial body in the State.

Pereira was a delegate to International Labour Organization conferences in Melbourne (1962) and Geneva (1963).  In 1964 he stepped down as TLC president to concentrate on his work for the police union.  He was later honoured with life membership of the TLC and in 1967 was appointed MBE.  On his retirement in January 1971 he was honoured by a formal dinner, attended by the minister for police and the police commissioner, and by a police union function at the Western Australian Cricket Association ground.  His interests included Australian Rules football and horse racing.  Widowed in 1984, he died on 6 July 1985 at Nedlands and was cremated with Catholic rites.  His son and daughter survived him.  The premier, Brian Burke, expressed appreciation of Pereira’s 'long and distinguished service' to the Labor Party in Western Australia.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Oliver, Unity is Strength (2003)
  • West Australian, 31 December 1964, p 7, 10 July 1985, p 12
  • Police News (Perth), January 1971, p 6

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Bobbie Oliver, 'Pereira, Joseph Clarke (1907–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


3 June, 1907
Geraldton, Western Australia, Australia


6 July, 1985 (aged 78)
Nedlands, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.