Fred Nile

The “Father” of NSW Parliament – Rev Hon Fred Nile MLC

18 August 2020


On September 15, 1934, a Saturday, the US president was Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat), the UK Prime Minister was Ramsay MacDonald (Labour), Pope Pius XI was leading the Catholic Church, the Prime Minister of Australia was Joseph Lyons, the 1934 Australian federal election was held in Australia, Robert Gordon Menzies entered into Parliament and Frederick John Nile was born in Kings Cross, Sydney, New South Wales. The next time the 1934 calendar is a mirror image will be in 2029, and God willing, Fred Nile will be 95 years old.

Fred has been married to Silvana Nero-Nile since December 15, 2013, and of course he was previously married to a memorable Christian, politician and mother, Elaine Nile (6 December 1958 – 17 October 2011).

In reflecting on his achievements in the church, army, family, community, and NSW parliament, I glanced over his revealing autobiography, published in August 2001, in which he is portrayed as a moral crusader and pastor-turned-politician. In that book, Fred Nile shares his thoughts on society’s three most controversial subjects: religion, sex, and of course politics. Interestingly, a Korean edition was released in 2003.

Rev Hon Fred Nile — note that ‘Reverend’ comes before ‘Honourable’ as in Fred’s words, no-one comes before God — is the national President of the Christian Democratic Party and continues as a member of the NSW Legislative Council (Upper House).

Fred grew up in Sydney, leaving school at 15 and working briefly for an SP bookie before converting to Christianity. He studied at the Melbourne Bible institute for two years, and later undertook courses in theology and divinity.

In 1948, he volunteered for military service and joined the 45th Infantry Battalion (Machine Gun) Regimental Cadets (CMF) and promoted to Corporal, serving four years in Hurstville NSW. He was also awarded several decorations for his paramilitary activities up to 1974. He worked as a storeman, clerk, and salesman before his ordination as an evangelical congregational minister in 1964 at Bexley, Sydney.

He was Assistant Director of the 1968 Billy Graham Crusade at the Sydney Showgrounds, and in 1974 he became the National Coordinator of the Festival of Light, which ended up becoming FamilyVoice Australia, where I am now NSW/ACT State Director.

He has since organised Australian tours by moral campaigners including Mary Whitehouse, Pat Boone, Mother Teresa, members of the Moral Majority and ‘Anti-Militant Homosexuals’ Chuck and Donna McIlhenny. Most memorable was perhaps Malcolm Muggeridge’s Australian tour with his wife Kitty, in October, 1976. Interestingly, in 1984 it was Malcom Muggeridge who stated publicly the great admiration he had for Rev Fred Nile.

In 1981 he was elected to the NSW Parliament as a Call to Australia candidate, and still sits in the NSW Legislative Council. He is currently its longest-serving member.

My wife and I recently hosted Fred and Silvana for lunch in our apartment in the southern suburbs of Sydney, overlooking his former residential suburb of Kogarah Bay. Over lunch, listening to him reflect on a ‘race well run’ (Hebrews 12:1-3), I quickly came to understand that here is a man who cuts through the stereotypes and reveals the heart and soul of the man behind all the headlines and posturing — a fascinating mix of moral crusader, humble pastor, tireless politician and compassionate human being.

In recapping on Fred’s contribution to Australian politics, and particularly on his 86th birthday, we all need to reflect once again on his origins as the son of a Kings Cross taxi driver and a Kings Cross waitress, a brief career as an SP bookie’s runner, his conversion to Christianity at the age of fifteen, his innovative youth work among skinheads, bikies and surfies at Sydney’s Wesley Central Mission, his somewhat controversial leadership of the Australian Festival of Light, his tenacious fight against the “moral darkness” he saw and still sees threatening the foundations of society, his confrontations with the then ‘gay rights’ movement and now the left-wing dominated non-Christian LGBTIQA+ voice, his unexpected election to the NSW Legislative Council in 1981 with a record first preference vote for an Independent, and finally his love-hate relationship with a media that was never going to be ‘accepting’ of a person who actually had/has a vision for Australia.

One of the most memorable phrases I recall Fred saying was when he was asked about his retirement, to which Rev Nile replied:

“My retirement plans are in God’s hands. When He says, ‘Go Fred’, then Fred will go.”

When the times comes for you to boldly claim Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain”, I will always be reminded of 2 Timothy 4:7, “You have fought the good fight, you have finished the race, you have kept the faith.

Every blessing in this 86th year since your birth. Amen brother.

[Photo: Bradley Hunter]

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