human rights news & views

Vale Peter McGregor

Peter McGregor, Australian pacifist and ‘education radical activist’ for over 40 years, died yesterday.

An academic by trade, McGregor was also a convener of the Australian Anti-Apartheid Movement along with Meredith Burgmann.  Last year he attempted to arrest senior members of the Australian government on suspicion of war crimes.

According to Queensland anti-war activist Ciaron O’Reilly, McGregor was "a good and humble man.  A good activist and organiser, he had a wonderful sense of humour and a deep sense of solidarity with those from the movement who were facing the courts or jailed."

In 2007 Peter McGregor was awarded a Eureka Australia Medal in Ballarat, home of the Eureka Stockade rebellion in 1854.  Here is an excerpt from his acceptance speech, a few weeks before his death:

My understanding of what life is comes from Kurt Vonnegut’s [2005] autobiography A Man Without a Country where he says life is about helping each other get through it — quite similar to the Eureka Oath, “to stand true to each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties.”

And I like the idea that when you dream alone, it is just a dream, but when you dream together, it is reality (Brasilian folksong).  And the idea of ‘Paying it Forward’ — see the film.

Thanks for the dreams that I have had with many of you.


  1. John Englart
    13 January 2008 | 12:28 am

    I first met Peter in 1974 when he was part of the organising group for the Sydney Anarchist conference held in January 1975. For several months we shared the same house in Glebe in 1975. Over the years I have stayed in contact, mainly through email.

    A couple of years ago – June 2006 – I attended a rights at work rally in Newcastle and Peter was still at the front of activism, leading by example. He was part of a protest vigil outside the Spotlight store in Newcastle highlighting the store management reducing working conditions with the introduction of the Howard Government’s AWAs. After the union rally he escorted myself, my partner and child to a local restaurant where we talked about past and present activism. At the end of lunch he paid the bill. Peter was always generous with his money, his friendship, his support and solidarty. See a picture of Peter outside the Newcastle Spotlight Store

    Social change was always important to Peter, more important sometimes than ideological differences that seperate people. Peter was for most of his activist life self identified as an anarchist but was prepared to work across party and factional lines. And he had a wicked sense of humour and playfulness like a child, that could infuriate those activists with a more serious minded intent. (And yes, some of his antics infuriated me at the time)

    I am grateful to have known him, to have experienced his wisdom, learning, playfulness, ethics and social activism. He truly enriched my life, my dreams, my passion for human rights and social justice.

    Vale Peter. I shall drink to you tonight and fly the black flag in your memory.

  2. 13 January 2008 | 9:16 am

    We caught up with Peter (and Jo!) again when they were in Melbourne going to Ballarat to get his Eureka medal on December 3rd.

    We used to live next door to Peter in Darlinghurst squats in 1970s.

    Some of the locals here in Melbourne who knew Peter are going to a public event:

    MIDDAY – SUNDAY 20th of JANUARY 2008
    Corner Franklin and Bowen Streets, Melbourne – (Opposite City Baths)
    – The first two people executed in Victoria on the 20th of January 1842


    Afterwards some of us are meeting up on Sunday January 20th from 3.30pm to commemorate Peter
    call 9354 6883 or 0403 139 818 for location details

  3. 13 January 2008 | 2:14 pm

    Some more memories of Peter.

  4. George Morgan
    14 January 2008 | 3:50 pm

    Peter McGregor, a former UWS staff member, died on the weekend.

    I first met Peter in the late 80s at UWS Nepean when I tutored on his media studies courses. I was drawn to him because of his support for the rights of untenured staff, of which I was one, and of students. Much loved by his own students, Peter’s classes were lively, polemical affairs and he inspired and encouraged many to become radicals like him . He was a member of an endangered species: an activist-academic, one who took his commitments to political movements more seriously than his career and who was always prepared to speak out in favour of what he believed in. Yet there was nothing sanctimonious or puritanical about Peter. He knew how to enjoy life and was always cheerful and good-natured . He was disposed to take up the position of underdog and outsider but had no brooding resentment towards those opposed him or who disparaged him and his beliefs

    Although from a middle class north shore background, Peter had roots in the radical movements of the 1960s and 70s. He had marched against the Vietnam War and Apartheid. He organised the protests against the Springbok rugby tour in 1974. Peter was arrested several times in the course of his involvement in protest actions, including most recently last year when he tried to perform a citizen’s arrest on Philip Ruddock for crimes against humanity. Peter was a staunch unionist and a former member of the UWS executive of the National Tertiary Education Union. He fought against the creeping managerialism and in defence of academic freedom.

    Peter was forced to retire in his mid-fifties as a result of a degenerative brain disease, similar to Alzheimers. He turned sixty late last year and held a big party at which his life was celebrated by numerous friends, comrades, ex-students and relatives. A long-time supporter of voluntary euthanasia, last weekend Peter chose to end his own life. He’ll be greatly missed.

    George Morgan

  5. Mar Bucknell
    17 January 2008 | 11:42 pm

    A good comrade gone and a life well lived.

    I only had a few fleeting contacts with Peter in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but I too will drink to his memory tonight,


  6. Stuart Highway
    19 January 2008 | 5:44 pm

    I was saddened to learn of your passing. You were a great activist and will be sorely missed. Stuart Highway

  7. Alison
    23 January 2008 | 12:18 pm

    was both a student and colleague of Peter’s at UWS. I admired his passion for the right and not tolerating the wrong. cheers Peter, for the impact upon lives you may not have known you had. Alison

  8. Hans and Gina
    28 February 2008 | 3:33 pm

    Peter , after 40 years of friendship:
    “Ich hat’ einen Kameraden, einen Beesser’n find’st
    Du nicht”!
    You will be always remembered.
    Love and Rage! Shalom, Hans and Gina.

  9. Chadd
    13 March 2008 | 8:50 pm

    A student of Peter’s from just 3 years ago. I was a conservative little right-winger starting at university and angered when I first realised I’d have to put up with this left wing loon. He won me over, not in the year of my study, but a year later when all those lessons where he would listen to and respect my point of view while offering his own finally paid off. I emailed him to let him know and he said it had made his day…

    I hope he’s somewhere better.

  10. 4 December 2010 | 3:11 pm

    Great post! GA is also my greatest earning. Having said that, it’s not a much.
    thanks !! quite helpful post!
    amazing things thanx

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