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Cheney, William Henry (Bill) (1899–1983)

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This entry is from People Australia

William Henry George (Bill) Cheney (1899-1983) driver and trade union official 

Birth: 19 February 1899 in Queensland, son of Rudolph ‘Bob Cheney’, printer, later driver and trade union official, and Mary, née Hayden. Marriage: 1924 at East Melbourne, Victoria, to native-born Minna Matilda Mary Guinane (1900-1981). They had a daughter and a son. Death: 9 July 1983 in Edithvale, Victoria. Religion: Catholic. 

  • Moved with parents to Melbourne about 1901. Bill was brought up at Richmond, then lived at Alphington. Started as dray driver at T. Wallridge and Co.
  • Through his father quickly gained a seat on Melbourne sub-branch of Transport Workers’ Union. Soon after became organiser where chief duties included organising milk carters in inner-city of Melbourne. In 1945 became State secretary and in 1956 Federal secretary. Member of Melbourne Trades Hall Council.
  • Purged communists and supporters from TWU, but union career was overshadowed by that of his father. Left an impression of ‘easy-going inaction, with contemporaries recalling how his days were often spent simply reading the newspapers’.
  • Personal failings impaired TWU’s performance, as did underfunding of his office. Between 1956 and 1966 any industrial advances by TWU occurred ‘despite the federal leadership of Bill Cheney rather than because of it’.
  • In 1966 his poor performance was no longer acceptable to the majority of TWU’s Federal Council and he was prised from office with a large ‘gratuitous payment’.
  • Cause of death: bronchopneumonia, chronic obstructive airways disease and coronary sclerosis with complete heart block.

Bradley Bowden, Driving force: the history of the Transport Workers Union of Australia 1883-1992 (Sydney, 1993); Transport Worker, December 1966; Union Carter, November 1938, May 1946.

Additional Resources

  • photo, Age (Melbourne), 7 February 1948, p 3

Citation details

'Cheney, William Henry (Bill) (1899–1983)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 6 June 2023.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Bill Cheney, 1948

Bill Cheney, 1948

Age (Melbourne), 10 February 1948, p 1

Life Summary [details]


19 February, 1899
Queensland, Australia


9 July, 1983 (aged 84)
Edithvale, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death


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.

Key Organisations