The Ralph Clarke Story


One of three children, I was born on 4/10/1951 and raised in Walkerville SA.

Our parents, Bill and Daisy, were typical Australian Depression-era parents. Dad served in the RAAF as ground-crew in England during WW2. Mum was born and raised in England and served in the RAF as a driver. They met in 1945 and after a 10 week courtship they married in July 1945. Mum and Dad had been married for almost 65 years when Dad died in November 2009. Mum lived in a nursing home, passing away at 90. Sadly, like many of our elderly parents, she had dementia.

I went to Walkerville Primary School then Adelaide Boys High School. I was a fair student and my favourite subjects were History and English. I debated and played basketball.

I joined what was then the Young Labor Association in 1966 at the age of 14. I remained a member of the ALP until November 2001 when I resigned to contest the seat of Enfield as an independent in February 2002.

After leaving high school in January 1969, I joined Stenhouse Wallace Bruce, Insurance Brokers, as a junior clerk. I also joined the Insurance Employees Union and became a committee member. While working for Stenhouse, I studied for the Associate Diploma in Insurance Studies.I completed 10 out of 12 subjects but I left the industry before finishing. At the same time I studied at the Institute of Technology for the Certificate in Business Studies which I attained in 1973. I remained with Stenhouse until March 1974 when I joined the Federated Clerks Union, SA Branch, as an organiser. I retained my position with the Clerks Union until December 1993 when I was elected to the SA Parliament as the Member for Ross Smith.

ralph-clarke-outdoorsWhile I was with the FCU, I was seconded to work for a small national union called the Wool Brokers Staffs’ Association. This small union represented white-collar workers employed by wool-selling brokers like Elders and Dalgety’s. I was the sole union representative and I travelled the length and breadth of Australia, organising, advocating and appearing before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in wage cases and cases regarding working conditions.

In 1984, at the invitation of the SA Branch Council of FCU, I was appointed secretary on the retirement of the long-serving Harry Krantz. I was elected Secretary in a contested election in 1985. In 1991 I was elected National President of FCU.I married Mary, in November 1978 and we stayed together until January 1997. I am pleased to say that Mary and I remain good friends and I am grateful for her friendship and loyalty. Our much-loved daughter, Katherine, was born in 1981. She is a great joy in my life and a person I love and admire greatly.

Ralph Clarke with-partner, Sue Green

I met my partner, Sue Green, in 1999. Coincidentally, we had worked together at Stenhouse in 1973. We’ve been together since 1999. Sue and I do voluntary work together for Community Food SA, a Christian-based food centre in my old electorate which serves as a low-cost supermarket for low-income households.

After losing the seat of Enfield (formerly Ross Smith) in 2002 I opened my own IR consultancy business. I appear as an advocate for people who have been unfairly dismissed or have been underpaid. I charge a nominal rate: I’m not wealthy but I can survive well enough on what I have and this is my way of “putting something back”.

In 2007 I was elected as a Councillor with the Adelaide City Council.I am fortunate to have travelled widely: – Soviet Union (including Uzbekistan), UK, Italy, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, USA, South Africa, South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore. I have been a Justice of the peace for 21 years and am currently on the Australia Day Council.

While I am not a mad sports fan, I do follow the Roosters (North Adelaide) in the SANFL competition and Geelong in the AFL competition. I support Geelong simply because I used to barrack for them with a friend at primary school during the VFL days.