An Interview with E C Fry

An Interview with E C Fry: Eric Fry recalls the origins of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History to Peter Love

Peter: How do you recall the earliest years of the Labour History Society, nationally that is?

Eric: Well, Pete it was formed in 1961, and centred in Canberra. Bob Gollan first had the conception of an Australian Society for the Study of Labour History and he came to that from his British experience. Bob had been a postgraduate scholar at London University in the late 1940s O1i an Australian National University Scholarship before the ANU itself was established in Canberra and when selected scholars like Bob were being sent to study overseas. There Bob got to know the Communist History Group which was very strong and embraced very left wing British historians like Hobsbawm and Thompson who were highly influential for us in Australia, not in any cultural cringe way, but because they had advanced a long way along the path which we wanted to follow; they had more experience and resources.

Just at that time Asa Briggs, now Lord Briggs by courtesy of the Labour government in Britain, and probably more deserving of that title than most, had to come to Australia on a visit. He was a leading social historian and a most active and inspiring person in those areas at the time. As a result of his visit Bob learnt that a Society for the Study of Labour History was being formed in England and decided that we ought to do the same in Australia. So we formed a committee in Canberra and Bob was the first President of the provisional committee and I was the Secretary. We got together about a dozen interested people and we circularised others whom we knew by name around the Australian universities and the trade unions to some extent too. As a result of that we were able to have our inaugural meeting in 1961 in Brisbane where the ANZAAS, the Australia and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, was holding its annual corroboree which then included history and all the social sciences and humanities. So in that room in Brisbane where we had our 20 or 30 odd people, mainly academic historians who had gone to ANZAAS, together with a strength of trade unionists who had come along particularly from Brisbane, we fonned the Australian Society and went on from there in 1961.

Peter: Can you recall the names of some of those who were present apart from yourself and Bob Gollan?

Eric: Well, from the ANU Don Rawson was certainly one, and from the trade unions we had Joe Harris, a notable Brisbane building worker who I’d met before. Joe went on to write a vivid history in The Bitter Fight and he was a scholar as well as a working carpenter, when he’d get jobs in between being black listed by the employers in the building industry. We had a few trade union officials as well.

Peter: What, in those early days, did you see that the Society could usefully do?

Eric: Well, perhaps I should say why we were there in Canberra in 1961 and that takes one back to the story of one’s life. Without spending too much time on that, I think I should explain those circumstances which led to Bob Gollan and myself and some other kindred people being in Canberra at the National University and hence being able to take this kind of initiative, small though it was. Both Bob and I were growing up in the 1930s, radicalised by the events, particularly the world situation of the 1930s. Bob was a few years my senior and was most active politically. He and I had become convinced socialists. The meetings against war and fascism, the whole state of the world, the Chamberlain government policy, Menzies in Australia, all these things made me a rebellious youth and I was learning something about the world as an evening student, a part-time student in economics at Sydney University. I was working as a clerk, a very junior office boy clerk, in the Commonwealth Public Service at the Customs House at the Quay, that lovely historic building which looks like being sacrificed to the shortsightedness of municipal management and the greed of developers. From there I caught the tram up George Street three or four evenings a week after work. That was an exhausting business, football practice as well in winter time. Fortunately I wasn’t mentally exhausted by my labours in the Customs House. It was the nearest to drudgery, but it provided a living. I won a free place to go to the University. In those benighted days fees were being charged. Not being able to go to the University as a full time student, my family couldn’t support that, I went as a part time student. So I leamt about economics and that was useful knowledge of the world. Bob had been there as a teacher trainee on a teacher training scholarship and he’d studied history and English and the other Standard teaching subjects.

Peter: So you knew Bob in those earlier years?

Eric: No, well I didn’t know him at that time, its only later that I met him at Sydney University and in connection with the Teachers College. After our war service, he returned, he became a lecturer at the Sydney Teachers College and I decided that I would become a full time student. Now it was possible because in many ways that second war was a liberating time in that despite all the deprivations, the loss of life of many and so on the old was shattered. I was recently reading an interesting article where a feminist historian was arguing that for women too in the turmoil of the war they found a greater degree of independence. To people like myself, it closed the door on the old order, those constraining miserable mean years of the 1930s when we’d grown up and which made us rebellious youths. It closed the door on those and opened an opportunity. The Commonwealth government would give a living allowance under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme to ex-service men and women to study. So I became a full time student at Sydney University in my mid 20s and loved it; that was something that I wanted to do.

Peter: It’s interesting you should say that because I remember some years ago reading Edward Thompson’s reminiscences of his war years. In many ways he came back to them and located some of the origins of his subsequent political attitudes generally, to the war. Has your actual experience of the war years in anyway shaped and changed the perspective you had on things from the 1930’s? Eric: It con finned what I can remember of the 1930s, it made me convinced that I had found the basic answer to the problems of society. I was not the first to believe so, but it confirmed in my mind that capitalism was in crisis, that the ruling class would always exploit the rest, that the policy of appeasement of the Menzies government that the anti-communist and anti Soviet policies had proved bankrupt and dangerous, actually. I became a Communist Party member in the armed services and continued to be so. Those ideas had a ready response within the armed services although of course their commendation was officially prohibited. Yet my whole experience of the war confirmed those convictions which I had. Looking forward we know that by the end of the 1940s the question of whether there was to be a brave new world and a better society and what would happen to the labour government and the labour movement in Australia and the communist movement with the coming of the Cold War is a new period from say 1949. I was confirmed in my beliefs and that encouraged me to find out more about history which had always interested me. It had been my favourite subject in school, I was also interested in philosophy because I’d begun to learn Marxist philosophy.

Peter: You were saying that you joined up during the war years. Turning to your memory and Ian Turner’s little memoir piece “My Long March”, that was in Overland, was your experience in any way comparable with Ian’s in the day to day life in the army, the sort of activism and comradeship that developed between men in the forces?

Eric: Yes indeed. It seems coy and a bit of a platitude of busy ‘old RSL vets’, that’s professional soldiers, but yes there was a great deal of comradeship and pleasure in service life. Yet it is true and I doubt this is one basis for the upholders of the RSL. In some ways its because these are formative years. Others might remember with great pleasure their experiences and friends from say university or whatever. In the case of the war of course there’s an extra excitement and perhaps dangers at least to some extent, a shared common life whether you were living in a small tent or in an air force barracks. Therefore their views become well known, you become very well known and I found that my views were quite acceptable amongst my friends and that they would tend to look to the known communist or a leftist to tell them what was happening in the world and the wider scene.

Peter: You joined up with the Airforce did you?

Eric: I was in the army for a couple of years and then I went into the Airforce because the Australian Anny was being held as a garrison force in Australia. I won’t go into the whole sorry story of the failure to defend Australia, to use the troops as they should have been used. This is a story of ineptitude for which the prewar government should be denounced and for which most of the military leaders with some exceptions, should be recorded by history. It is depressing to see that a Labor government even now still bases its notions of international relations and defence policy on sending expeditionary forces overseas to some area in the Middle East whereas Australia’s defence is in fact endangered by that.

Peter: You spent most of the war years then in the Airforce, where were you serving?

Eric: I flew around the Pacific area in the airforce. The whole use of the Airforce under the empire air training scheme to provide the means for Britain’s bombing offensive is something about which I’ve been writing a book recently. I’m sure that you would appreciate that it is unwise to say to anybody whose spent many years writing a book, ‘what do you think of that subject ?’, you would never stop.

Peter: So you came out of the Airforce at the end of the war convinced more firmly than ever in your beliefs of the rightness of the workers’ and the common people’s cause, then taking up the opportunity to go full time to University. From there you went on to complete your first degree, is that right?

Eric: Yes, I had done my degree in economics. Now I did arts because I wanted to do history. I wanted to study philosophy, I was interested in education and associated social sciences; you might say what equivalent there was of sociology ill those days because it was designated as a separate discipline. I didn’t pursue my philosophy as much as I would have liked to have done believing that to be the cream of the sciences because that pseudo hero of Sydney, Professor John Anderson, proved to be a jealous god and he had no, there was no question of doing honours in philosophy and finding it comfortable unless one joined the group of his disciples. So I dropped my philosophy after a few years and I did my honours in history and when I got my first class honours I did a Diploma of Education and was enrolled as a teacher. So that was my position teaching then for a while.

Peter: Was your honours year the sort of honours that those of us who’ve done our undergraduate work in more recent years would have experienced, the usual theory and method work, along with a research piece? What did you work on for your honours research?

Eric: Yes that was the system. I won’t go into the state of the Sydney History Department which is celebrating its centenary, except to say that the teaching offered was done under great difficulty. There was a flood of ex-service people who overwhelmed the staff who had no tradition really of anything other than a casual kind of gentlemen and ladies finishing school. It was not teaching of the standard which we’ve come to expect in universities these days. Nevertheless people like John M. Ward, the young professor, were conscientious, meticulous particularly proficient in training and research. A wide range of world history was taught though virtually no Australian history was included. This was a scandal. We did do our own research in the third year honours essay and the fourth year thesis. I did mine on economic history, having my economics background, with Ward’s encouragement. Perhaps it suited some of his research interests at the time. It looked at the Australian economy, what we would now call political economy really, towards the end of the 19th century.

Peter: That had something to do with the bank crashes?

Eric: Yes, that’s right.

Peter: After successfully taking your first, done your teacher training and you did a period as a chalkie?

Eric: I was a chalkie for a while. I had been in the Commonwealth Public Service but with a rare flash of sense I realised that this was not going to offer a very safe or secure future for me in the future in the rosy glow of the post war world. So I became a school teacher. I was only teaching for a little while when I won a scholarship to the very new Australian National University at Canberra. So Sheila and I set out on our expedition from Sydney to Canberra.

Peter: And at which point had you and Sheila got married?

Eric: In 1950, towards the end of my undergraduate course. I would like on another occasion to go into a much more personal account of these years but I won’t pursue that now.

Peter: Off you went to the University and then began the work on what became your most notable thesis. At what point then were you in your career when the Labour History Society began?

Eric: Well, I’d finished the PhD at the Australian National University. That was quite a feat. I was amongst the earliest people to get a PhD there and a notable group of scholars who came in fact the year after me included scholars like Russell Ward, Bernard Smith and others. It was a gathering of the post-war young left who had a chance. We all had a chance.

Peter: Ian Turner, when did he come?

Eric: Ian came later, because he became a Party official and a full time worker for progressive causes and only later came back to the University.

Peter: But you didn’t begin immediately working for the ANU after your thesis did you?

Eric: No, I should say that I owe Bob Gollan a debt of gratitude. He became my supervisor at a critical time. He was one of the few people who’d done a PhD thesis and he had great talent and sympathy as a teacher and a helper which so many other people subsequently have received the benefit of. I then looked for a job, that was hard to get in the late 1950s there were virtually no jobs in universities and there were no jobs for people who were on the ASIO lists and were followed around. Russell Ward’s autobiography deals with this and anybody who wants to get the feel of that period can have a look at it or for that matter have a look at IDc Throssell’s story of his mother and his own life, you realise the oppressiveness and the discrimination, the victimisation which was exercised behind the scenes and openly sometimes against anybody. So finding a job in the university was very difficult. I was fortunate to have a short term appointment at the University of Western Australia. Then I was fortunate to find that up there in the northern tablelands of New South Wales, a little outpost of culture, the Athens of the north or the Athens of the south whichever way they looked at it locally, was expanded to the extent of having a couple of lectureships. I went there and we enjoyed it very much. It was a good institution and again a tribute to a liberal like Madgwick who had a great deal to do with framing it as Vice Chancellor. So it was from there, after my scholarship at the ANU, a year’s stint at W A, three years at Armidale, on every occasion teaching everything that had to be taught, that I came back to the ANU which had just incorporated the Canberra University College. I went back on the teaching side.

Peter: It was I presume, about this time, that the move to establish the Labour History Society came to light.

Eric: That’s right, I found that Bob Gollan was there, had survived numerous attempts to dismiss him and that he was then a senior fellow, in the Institute on the research side. His book Radical and Working Class Politics based on his earlier thesis appeared; he was the leading “historian of the left, and indeed in many ways a leading intellectual on the left within Australia. So a group of us were there and came together to form the Labour History Society. Without going too much into those imponderables in history, I should point out that the ANU at that time had a unique role. It was very much a product of the reforming Labor government of the whole period of the 1940s, the creation of people like Chifley and Dedman, planners like Coombes and the others. It had the very clear intentions of providing postgraduate research in Australia. It was tied up with Australian nationalism, Australian independence, a belief in education for all those features which gave the labour movement of that time such a drive and emphasis. It did a great deal to create a new atmosphere. So although there we were in 1961 with a conservative government, using its thought police against dissident intellectuals and in a period of the Cold War, nevertheless after the Australian National University had been established and still retained those reforming qualities which had grown out of the 1930s and 1940s, it was no accident that Canberra was the place in 1961 where a group of labour historians could come together and do something to form a Society.

Peter: With that background you thought it was a right and proper thing to study the working lives of the common people and the institutions they created for the improvement of their conditions?

Eric: That’s true. We all, in our own ways (and we included some communists but mainly people of general labour sympathy), we all would explicitly or implicitly have accepted the dictum of that 19th century philosopher that the point of philosophy and history is not merely to understand the world but to change the world. We all saw our history as a guide to action. That’s something that people should know so that they could take action of all kinds, so that they would understand the world better.

Peter: And this of course is not just simply a class matter either. In some ways it’s a nationalist enterprise too, do you agree?

Eric: It certainly was and I suppose I ought to speak about that because although it’s common place to people like yourself and me, it is fortunately something which people of the generation of the 1980s have to make a mental effort to comprehend. Australian history scarcely existed as an academic study. It was treated as a quite inferior provincial branch of the British and imperial history. The idea of serious work on the history of our own continent and our own time was not acceptable in academic circles which were still very much dominated by appointees from Britain. Generally they were conventional British academics who had, in intellectual and cultural matters, what is well enough described as the cultural cringe. So we had a missionary role not only to study labour history, but also in the first place to say our country, Australia, is worth studying. The promotion of Australian history followed automatically from what we were trying to do.

Peter: I always thought it a rather nice little paradox given that kind of dominance of the British bourgeoisie generally in the field for so long, in a sense it was a British labour historian and indeed a Society of Labour History in Britain which had given at least partly a stimulus to the development of the Australian Society.

Eric: Yes, that’s true. It’s worth a bit of reflection in that whilst we might have been a brash and cheeky ocker Australian nationalists in the Bulletin traditions on occasions, particularly if it were to do with the cricket or something like that, nevertheless we did admire the work of people like Hobsbawm and that whole group of British leftists, famous ones like Christopher Hill or even Gordon Childe, who was British in his work. We followed all those people with admiration and without any feeling of colonial subservience. Nor from their pan did any imperial superiority emerge so, as you say, it is a contradiction that those bonds of empire which constrained the study of Australian history also provided a means for us to learn how to do it.

Peter: The Society’s Bulletin first came out in about 1961 didn’t it?

Eric: Well by ’62 anyway, yes. Yes, I should go back to there. When we had our meeting at ANZAAS in Brisbane we had a good degree of support and interest from many people; Roger Joyce was there for example, and others who were not actively involved were present at the congress and they all gave their encouragement. We went back and we followed those inevitable steps of an organisation, we had a constitution. We set simple aims and began to circularise people, asking them to pay a subscription, to provide us some money. That subscription I feel sure was 10 shillings at the time. We were going to get by on a shoestring of course. We had in mind from the beginning that we didn’t want this to be an ivory tower organisation. But we didn’t want it to be solely acad course. We wanted to be a bridge between ordinary people and academics. That meant in effect that we wanted to see Labor and Communist Party activists, trade unionists, community activists taking a part. We didn’t entirely succeed in that. That’s something which ever since labour history people have grappled with. To what extent can you combine the interests of the professional in a particular subject with a much wider lay interest. Anyway, we set out to form groups wherever we could. We were fortunate in that we found that Sam Merrifield and Tom Audley and others had a ready made group going in Melbourne. They joined us really, happily, and a tremendous tribute is always due to Sam Merrifield for his work there. He had a vision which went beyond establishing merely a get-together of old timers who knew each other, he wanted an Australia-wide labour history organisation.

Peter: You refer to the Old Pioneers of Progress?

Eric: Yes, whom so far as I know were meeting already. Without disbanding themselves they became the nucleus of a branch of the Labour History society in Melbourne. We wanted to form a branch in Sydney. We did this. After all, we had fairly strong Sydney connections, people like Bob and myself who’d come from there. We were fortunate to have Bede Nairn take an interest from the beginning. Bede was at the University of New South Wales then, and he had strong links, was active within the Labor Party and had connections with the New South Wales trade unions. With his help a Sydney branch or group was formed. From the beginning we knew it had to be a wide group, it had to span the political spectrum from the deepest left to anybody of any interest at all. We have to remember that these were days when anti-communism was rampant, when sectarianism was very violent and little battles were being waged within the labour movement. We were able to keep together as an open society and I’d like to pay tribute to Bede as well as, Roger Coates from the other side, and many others in Sydney who at that time kept the Sydney group following this path in a way which was very useful. As it happened the Sydney group died away some years later, because some of the leading people happened to leave Sydney or were otherwise occupied. It is particularly pleasing to see it revived so strongly in recent years.

Peter: Yes, indeed. It’s interesting you should say that because Sam Merrifield was utterly dedicated to avoiding any of those sorts of splits. He had that classic pluralist view that all under the Labour umbrella could participate in the Society. He used to, in many ways, ensure that we kept our minds on matters as far distant in Australia’s past as possible to avoid the currents of passions that could sometimes be raised, particularly among old activists, who were happy to fight old battles again. So yes its clear that just at the practical level that sort of broad pluralist view does appear to have worked for the Society generally.

Eric: I believe it has. We’ve had very few troubles. We had a neurotic office bearer in the early days who denounced the attempted communist takeover but that was a paranoid person picking up the passions of the time in order to do some damage. It didn’t have a political basis really. As I say in Sydney these battles were fought with great bitterness in trade unions and political parties and so on. Yet, we had a harmonious and useful group from the beginning. It was a small group, of course, but the foundations were laid.

Peter: How would you describe the interests and research of the Society’s members in those early years?

Eric: Well, we were very much creatures of our own upbringing and training. Looking back we can see that that was a fairly narrow training, in a technical kind of methodology and a notion of history which, we didn’t agree with but which influenced us anyway. It was concerned with policy and war and high level politics and the actions of great men and so on. We rejected that but let us say never left that familiar approach entirely. Therefore the kind of work that was being done was often to do with political institutions, trade unions, the Labor Party. We have to remember that the serious work was now being done in post graduate theses which had, led by the ANU, now become available in Australia. A great expansion of university education in the 1960s provided the core of researchers in Australian history and in labour history and built up that body of material. And out of that has come those very many distinguished labour historians whose names are now well known and who have contributed so much to the Society. Right at the beginning, our first thought was to try to get out some kind of bulletin for contact and publication.

Peter: The other day I was lifting all my stuff off the shelf and I had a complete set of all the Society’s bulletins. Remember those occasional publications that were done in the early days too? They were the pieces of the more sustained scholarship that couldn’t perhaps fit within the cover of the bulletin regularly, yet they struck me as being something of a stimulus, too, for the further study of the working lives of common people and the institutions they built. The Society did very well in that little enterprise, as well as the bulletin.

Eric: We did I think. We can be proud of what we achieved in these early years from 1961 even though now it looks unsophisticated and is indeed compared to what is fortunately possible with the resources available now. We have to remember the paucity of publications of any kind in Australian history then. There was only one journal really Historical Studies Australia and New Zealand and the Journal of Politics and History to some extent antiquarian history journals. But there was very little scope for publication, because there was very little scholarly material to publish until universities began providing the means for the research to be done. Getting something out in the way of a newsletter, a bulletin, became a great priority in the circumstances of the time. So we got out our Bulletin and we did it all ourselves and as you say we got out some special publications. Bruce McFarlane, that man of many talents, produced very quickly that piece on ‘Irvine the Radical Sydney Economist’ which is very valuable still. Later I was able to interview Tom Barker in London and we did a bit of oral history which was a pioneer work in that field. We got them out to our members. Because there was no other way of publication we had them roneod off, that is to say typewritten, and run off on a primitive duplicating machine. Then we walked around the table and collated them by hand: hundreds and hundreds of hours of volunteer effort. That of course is no novelty and its something which always will be the core of the volunteer organisation.

Peter: It is interesting you should say that because one of the things I think you did is the stimulus this gave to those groups such as the Melbourne branch, to people like Sam Merrifield who did that marvellous job of collecting and interviewing. And others, like old Tom Audley, Jim Garvey: all those fellows whom I know well in Melbourne have sustained their interests over all those years in the Society. It’s worked largely because you people had the foresight to get a Society going nationally, sustain it through the journal. In many ways the amount of material you’ve developed over the years and the very considerable help that the likes of Sam Merrifield and others were able to feed back into that process of postgraduate research in addition to their own work of writing and so on has built up a marvellous body of material that we can bask in.

Eric: Yes indeed. I said we wanted to combine university and non university labour historians and I felt that we hadn’t been able to succeed in this entirely. It’s true, nevertheless, that a great deal was achieved and it is fact that so much of the work which is being done ‘in universities, postgraduate research really, was supplemented by the efforts in all kinds of ways of people from outside. There was a cooperation, at least, between the academic professional and the others. I see that link greatly strengthened again in recent years and looking forward I would say that it’s only in the last twenty years that Australian history has become a popular pursuit, a study, and a part of ordinary peoples’ lives. That’s beaut. We can rejoice in that. I would not claim for a moment that people like ourselves and the Labour History society have been solely or largely responsible, but let us say that we were part of that current, that we wished to go that way from the beginning, that we have made our contribution to it, and it has helped transform the receptiveness to Australian history, to labour history in all kinds of ways. We went from our bulletin to a journal because there was a need for a journal and that too has proved too be a very useful publication.

Peter: I think though, Eric, you’re too modest. I really do think that the work that you and your comrades did in the early years of the Society, in conjunction with the work that your British comrades have done, had in fact widened the scope of historical enquiry to encompass the common people. And since that was primarily the focus of your work ‘it became a richer, more diverse history that was available to people who say that the study of ordinary people was a worthy one which could be done well, professionally, and which had an intrinsic interest as well as political value.

Eric: Well, I think so, and I think we can truly say that we were always open minded. Not merely in a passive way but looking for new areas of history, new ways of study. I feel that I should mention the names of many people who contributed at that time, because the ANU was offering postgraduate scholarships you could say that there for a period of ten years from 1960 we had some of the cream of Australia’s postgrads coming to the ANU for a period of years and almost without exception they did help on the Labour History Society. People like Jim Hagan, for example would go away and do all kinds of things subsequently. We lived particularly by the volunteer efforts of postgrads who don’t have that much time for other things and who were temporary sojourners in Canberra. That particular role of course, of the ANU is diminished after 1970 for the very good reason that other centres provide alternative places for doing post grad studies.

Peter: But nonetheless, it was a long stream of people, wasn’t it?

Eric: It was a long stream, yes. And some remain, people like John Merritt and others contributed. John, who came there as a postgraduate scholar subsequently continued or came back as a member of staff and made a tremendous contribution over ten years. So there was a stable core of people there and a kind of moving other group who came and learnt about labour history. Then they went away and applied it elsewhere. We can truly say, too, that from the beginning we had a higher proportion than usual of the minority of women who were permitted to put a foot inside the academic door. Amongst them were notable women historians who did so much in the 1970s to bring women’s history forward.

Peter: Yes indeed, the work of feminist historians has been one of the major sources of enrichment for the labour history tradition, particularly in more recent limes. What we more broadly call the social historians have focused our minds with greater force and precision on the questions of everyday life of working people. That in some ways is reflected in the change the journal made in its subtitle isn’t it?

Eric: Yes, it was a very definite decision that we were a journal of social history and that we certainly ought to use that subtitle. Amongst the women from those days of particular interest would be Ann Curthoys, an outstanding person in all respects, who had several terms, several periods in Canberra and made very valuable contributions to the Society, not merely in the work that she did but in the range of ideas which she introduced and the people whom she attracted. Other women like Susan Magarey and Lyndall Ryan came from elsewhere or went elsewhere. From Sydney I think we can be proud that Ann had a great deal to do, in her formative years, with the Society and found it useful.

Peter: But that’s one of the things that has struck me about the Society: It’s partly to do with that broadly pluralist approach that’s been taken, left pluralism would more properly describe it, the Society and its members have been receptive to new perspectives, new ideas to encourage new developments in the field of history, I’ve always been struck with that. The Society is not a crusty lot of conservatives like some institutions who have turned into fossils in their middle years.

Eric: I suppose if you want to change the world, if you treat it as vain hope and your always looking for new ways, and new people, the answer has not yet been found. Just to glance forward on the Society the time came when the Society could not be sustained from Canberra and where the number of people who would support it elsewhere had grown greatly. The transfer to Sydney of the headquarters has been a great success. It’s run splendidly from there. There’s branches now in virtually every large centre in Australia. All this is something which is transforming the study of labour history and so it will continue. It’s particularly pleasing to see the Sydney branch, the original one, revived and so lively and far reaching and with all kinds of potentials being still developed.