Full Text

Australia, unemployed movement

Drew Cottle


Subject History
Social Movements » Collective Behaviour

Place Oceania » Australasia

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics capitalism, labor movements, revolution, socialism, unemployment

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00152.x


Extract

The Great Depression of the 1930s wrought enormous misery for a generation of Australian workers. Many lost their jobs, homes, and savings. Men, young and old, traveled on foot or by train searching for any kind of work. Families unable to pay the rent had to leave their homes, many making the “midnight flit” to other unoccupied dwellings. The destitute lived roughly, surviving on waste ground in makeshift camps known as Happy Valleys. A culture of poverty persisted among the unemployed where “making do” was a fact of life. Abandoned by the federal and state governments, political parties, and trade unions, and stigmatized by the press, the unemployed were expected to endure the Depression decade with resignation. Between 1927 and 1929 employers had prevailed over the unions of timber workers, wharf laborers, and coalminers in a series of climactic struggles. It was believed that the working class were demoralized by these experiences and would offer no resistance to the mass sackings, wage cuts, and homeless-ness imposed by the Depression. While most did accept their straitened circumstances, some jobless Australians formed small militant groups to fight for jobs, housing, and their dignity. Apart from those who were arrested by the police, the unemployed who fought back remain largely anonymous. Their activism found expression in street demonstrations and protests in different ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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