Journal Abstracts No. 82

The Unregulated Employment of Aboriginal Children in Queensland, 1842-1902
Shirleene Robinson

European colonists employed significant numbers of Aboriginal children in a diverse range of occupations in the Moreton Bay District after 1842. The Queensland government, however, did not pass legislation controlling this employment until 1902. During this unregulated period, working Aboriginal children were very susceptible to abuse because they were members of a dispossessed indigenous population and because of their youthfulness. Large numbers of employed Aboriginal children experienced both psychological and physical trauma. Many were kidnapped and removed from their traditional localities, abused and did not receive remuneration for their labour. During this unregulated period, the state government instituted legislation to control the employment of European state children and this article considers whether similar legislation relating to working Aboriginal children would have reduced cases of mistreatment and abuse. It concludes that further legislation in this period would not have helped working Aboriginal children because European officials would probably have been reluctant to invoke these laws.

Aboriginal Workers in the Australian Agricultural Company, 1824-1857
Mark Hannah

This article documents failed attempts by the an early nineteenth century pastoral enterprise to implement a British factory model of labour relations and traces the emergence of a distinctively Australian work culture which incorporated Aboriginal labour. In a radical departure from earlier work which variously stressed the destructive impact of pastoral capital, Aboriginal resistance to colonisation and coloniser-indigene ‘accommodation’, it is argued that there was an accord between work rhythms in subsistence economies and the attributes required of pastoral workers in the early colonial period. In a detailed analysis of recruitment, organisation, productivity and remuneration, the author argues that Aboriginal engagement with pastoral capital was purposefully designed to maintain contact with country and that Aboriginal workers were the most productive employees in the corporation.

Mutiny at Deloraine: Ganging and Convict Resistance in 1840s Van Diemen’s Land
Tom Dunning and Hamish Maxwell-Stewart

An incident of alleged animal maiming occurred in October 1845. In this article we attempt firstly to explain why and how it happened. Secondly, we try to discover the conflicting meanings that various contemporaries gave to this occurrence. We believe that the explanation of the event lies in the nature of ganged labour employed at Deloraine and the complex relationships that existed in 1845 between this ganged labour and the convict administration. Equally important to this complex social interaction are the various meanings given to this episode. The most available representations are of those of middle-class moralists. More difficult to reveal is the oppositional significance attributed to this event by the convicts themselves as they attempted to resist both the practices of the convict administration and the moral justifications for these practices.

Cultivating Class Consciousness in a New Generation: The Labor Guild of Youth in Melbourne 1926-28
Judith Smart

This article examines the inspiration and origins of the Labor Guild of Youth, formed as a section of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria in 1926. It also traces the progress of the organisation, analysing its membership, leadership, aims and objectives, educational and social activities and the reasons for its failure to develop a large following. The main purpose of the paper, however, is to investigate the significance of the establishment of a youth organisation that had the specific objective of encouraging class consciousness and identity rather than the conservative patriotic citizenship that predominated in most of the other youth movements that proliferated in early twentieth-century Melbourne. While acknowledging forerunners like the Socialist Sunday School, the paper will argue that the Labor Guild of Youth was indicative of the transition from middle-class paternalist organisations established for adolescents to ones that acknowledged and supported greater independence and a larger degree of self-governance. The difficulties and contradictions involved in this process, as well as the tensions arising from attempts to combine pleasure and leisure with political ambition, and the different objectives of ‘hand’ and ‘brain’ workers, are themes integral to the analysis and conclusions about the Guild’s historical significance and fate. So too are the male-gendered but unspoken assumptions built into the labour movement and its associated organisations, despite the mixed membership of the Guild. The principal sources used are Labor Call, the minutes of the Guild and Labor Youth but the study will be placed in the context of research on the organisation of youth by others in the 1920s, including conservative political parties and pioneers in the field like the YWCA and the YMCA.

Protecting the National Interest: The Labor Government and the Reform of Australia’s Colonial Policy, 1942-45
Huntley Wright

With the Japanese invasion of New Guinea and Papua during World War II, it is not unsurprising that the Labor Governments of John Curtin and Ben Chifley found it difficult to disentangle colonial from strategic interests. Acknowledging the difficulty, however, still leaves unanswered the important question: does this suggest an unwillingness to break with attitudes of the past, or did it provide the basis for colonial reform? Prior to the Japanese occupation of New Guinea and Papua, Australia’s strategic aspirations centred on the simple act of possession. After 1942 however, shocked by the lack of resistance to the Japanese advance in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, possession was no longer held as the sole criterion for security. The view of the Labor Government was that regional security could not be guaranteed unless it had ‘an adequate basis in economic justice’. In this essay, I argue that what marked the defensive concerns of the Curtin and Chifley Governments was precisely the degree to which Australian economic-strategic interests became entangled in a policy of colonial reform.

The ‘Great Literary Witch-Hunt’ Revisited: Politics, Personality and Pique at the CLF, 1952
Andrew Moore

Under the mentorship of L.J. Louis, in recent years Australian labour historians have made great strides in re-interpreting the Cold War. The following article sheds new light on a well-known episode in Australian cultural life during that period. The 1952 controversy over left-wing writers receiving funding from the Commonwealth Literary Fund has been described by Allan Ashbolt as ‘the great literary witch-hunt of 1952’. Rather than belonging exclusively to the domain of Cold War politics, the present article reveals that the dispute also reflected the private machinations of a particular individual. This was the journalist and historian, M.H. Ellis (1890-1969), an anticommunist par excellence, who conducted an unrelenting campaign against writers like Marjorie Barnard and James Normington Rawling who did not share his reactionary views. In a dispute that saw the political sympathies of Australia’s writers closely scrutinised for funding purposes and consolidated security’s role in literary censorship, both human agency and the broad impersonal forces of the Cold War played a part.

Peace Wars: the 1959 ANZ Peace Congress
John McLaren

The 1959 Australian and New Zealand International Congress for Peace and Disarmament, held in Melbourne, was the first major public event for the left in Australia after the splits in the ALP and the CPA that had occurred between 1955 and 1958. It was notable not so much for its success in attracting large numbers of delegates and for the declarations that came from it as for the brawling that took place during it, particularly over the issue of freedom of speech and the gaoling or execution of dissidents in the Soviet Union and Hungary. The Congress for Cultural Freedom and its allies had prior to the Congress organised groups to support the dissidents, but the members of these groups were seen by the Congress organisers as right-wing disrupters trying to destroy the unity of the Congress and to divert it from its primary objective. Although the organisers secured the numbers on the floor of the Congress and at its constituent special interest meetings, the conflict revealed new divisions on the left, between former Communists and younger members of a new left on the one hand, and the continuing leadership of the CPA and of the Victorian ALP on the other. This paper challenges the view that the Congress achieved a unity on the left in support of its aims. It shows how new alliances cut across old divisions between a left aligned with the Communist party and a right aligned with Catholic Action. The new divisions helped to paralyse Labor as a political force for another decade.