1995 – 25th Anniversary

25th Anniversary Speech - Jim O’Neill

Thank you all for coming today to join with us in commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the West Gate Bridge collapse when 35 of our workmates were killed and amazingly 18 survived, although some were seriously injured. This was and remains Australia’s worst industrial accident.

My name is Jim O’Neill. I was associated with West Gate from the very early days as the Construction Organiser for the Metal Workers Union through the many years of fabrication then erection of the bridge and after the collapse I worked on the project as a Boilermaker.

2000 – 30th Anniversary

On the 30th anniversary of the collapse, survivors, relatives, friends and distinguished guests, including the Premier and Member of Parliament for Williamstown, Mr Steve Bracks, Minister for Transport, Peter Batchelor and ACTU President, Sharon Burrows and Jim O’Neill, although very ill, gathered below the bridge to commemorate the disaster. Danny Gardiner addressed the crowd.

‘For me the West Gate Bridge will always represent a place where 35 construction workers lost their lives. It remains one of the worst industrial accidents in Australia.

‘The memorial plaque has provided for these workers’ families and friends a special place where we can meet at least every 15th of October, reflect and remember their sacrifices and ensure we do not forget them or the need for us to be forever vigilant about maintaining safe workplaces.

2002 – 32nd Anniversary

CFMEU Victorian State Secretary Martin Kingham told the gathering it was an honour to speak with the veterans of the bridge and families and friends of the workers who were killed in the tragedy.

‘It is important that we don’t let the memory die. It is important to keep in touch with each other. We need to remind a new generation of construction workers of the legacy of the workers who died here. We need to remain vigilant on issues of health and safety and remember what can happen if we leave this task to employers.’

Mr Kingham sent a greeting from CFMEU OHS manager Pat Preston, also a veteran of the bridge, who was called to a workplace fatality on his way to the memorial service.

2004 – 34th Anniversary

The 34th anniversary keynote address, entitled ‘They won’t have died in vain’ was delivered by John Cummins, the Victorian Branch President of the Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union’s Construction and General Division.

Today marks the 34th anniversary of Australia’s worst peace time industrial accident.

It is my pleasure to formally welcome you to this annual memorial service to those 35 construction workers who lost their lives in the bridge’s 1970 span collapse.

In many ways this is a sad occasion – remembering the lives cut short in the collapse – the heartache and tragedy caused to the families and loved ones.

2006 – 36th Anniversary

Danny Gardiner reminded the gathering of recently deceased John ‘Cummo’ Cummins’ comtribution.

Our committee was formed in 1990 to organise a memorial day for the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the West Gate Bridge. The Committee consisted of John Cummins, Tom Watson, Pat Preston, Jimmy O’Neil and myself.

The Committee continued to operate not only to organise memorial days but also to so something long term to commemorate the men who gave their lives in the construction of the bridge.

The work that was done to get to today is a credit to Cummo, Tommy and the rest of the Committee.

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