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All’s not lost, it seems

PART of the folklore of Christmas Island revolves around the fire that swept through the union offices not long after the death of union secretary Gordon Bennett.

Mr Bennett was one of the catalysts for getting the mine reopened and died on July 31 1991, just days before the Federal government officially announced that the mine would be reopened.

The mine had been the sole source of income for most of the islanders and they faced an uncertain future when the government closed the mine in 1988.

Mr Bennett led the battle to have the mine reopened. His exploits have been recorded in the book Tai Ko Seng by Cyril Ayris.

The predominantly Malay and Indonesian workers on the island had put a great deal of money into the union. They had given several hundred thousand dollars to various fighting funds to get the mine reopened.

Records of who gave what to the fighting funds had long been considered lost when the UCIW building burnt down in 1991.

The remains of the building were cleared from the site two hours after the fire had been extinguished.

However, Department of Transport and Regional Services Perth regional office director Grant Barons said some of the documents that had been thought destroyed in the fire “turned up” at various arbitration hearings he had been involved in.

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