Welcome to the Canberra Region Branch of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History.

The ASSLH aims to encourage the study, teaching and research of labour history and to encourage the preservation of labour archives.

This website was designed by Webtrax with the assistance of the Bede Nairn Fund. It aims to present a selection of articles and publications that can easily be accessed by students, teachers and others wanting to know more about labour history and politics.

The ASSLH encourages open debate on questions relating to labour history and politics. The articles published on this website do not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSLH and its officers. New contributions welcome. Links to other websites do not necessarily imply an endorsement of the content of those websites.

For news about our activities over the past year, click to read our Branch Secretary’s report to the 2019 Annual General Meeting.  http://labourhistorycanberra.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Canberra-Branch-Annual-Report-2018-2019.pdf



Vale Don Dwyer (1948- 2020)

Don Dwyer, one of our most treasured comrades, passed away on 11 April after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 71.

Don was born in Queensland to a rural farming family. He was sent to boarding school where he excelled and went on to complete an Arts degree at Queensland University. In his younger days, he was a keen sportsman and played both rugby and cricket.

Like many of his generation, he was drawn to Labor politics during the heady days of the Whitlam Government. With his natural journalistic skills, he found work in local government with the Brisbane City Council and elsewhere before joining the Australian Public Service in Canberra in the 1980s. It was here that Don was in his element. He soon cultivated a wide circle of friends and contacts including at senior levels of the Labor government. He once told me that he loved the Canberra winters, perhaps the only Queenslander ever to do so.

As well as his commitment to the ALP, Don was a longstanding member of the Labour History Society. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of labour history and politics which made him an outstanding contributor to our events and social gatherings. He was a shrewd observer of politics and his insights always seemed spot on.

Don was gregarious by nature and a born raconteur. Despite his aversion to social media, he always seemed to know everything that was going on. He read voraciously, his interests ranging far and wide. Yet despite his abundant talents, he remained modest and unassuming, never wanting to put himself forward. A unique individual, a gentleman, friend and comrade, he will be sadly missed.

Don’s friends in Vintage Reds will be holding a celebration of his life as soon as circumstances permit.

Peter Ellett (with sincere thanks to Janice Flaherty for added detail)



Coming events

Dear Members and Friends

It is with regret that the ASSLH Canberra region is suspending public meetings and events. We are considering offering some of the events as online events and will continue to work as a committee, albeit remotely, to deliver these events. Stay safe.

Chris Monnox on behalf of the branch committee.




Recent articles

Here are some of our recent articles. To search the complete list, click on the Articles and Publications menu.

  • SILICOSIS May 3, 2020 - Humphrey McQueen Killing is not murder when done for profit. The Commonwealth government expects 4,000 deaths this year from asbestos-related conditions, a figure to continue for some years. www.asbestossafety.gov.au Silicosis is likely to match that total each year and to extend well beyond the era of when most of the sufferers from asbestos will have […]
  • The Harco ‘Stay-Put’: Workers’ Control In One Factory? May 3, 2020 - Drew Cottle and Angela Keys Factory occupations are rare in Australian labour history. While ‘work-ins’ and other forms of workers’ control have occurred in coalmines, power stations, on building sites and on the waterfront, they are almost unknown in factories. Their importance has always been a crucial part of the Left’s political programme and strategy […]
  • DISCOVERIES OF COOK April 27, 2020 -   by Humphrey McQueen And in a charge of bubbles we go about, Veering in towards drama and Cape Howe; Eyried in mist we feel the brush of doubt As stars congeal, the air thickens. There are warnings now. Francis Webb, Disaster Bay (c.1970). Whoever it was who reached what we now call Australia some […]
  • The Brisbane Line: An episode in capital history April 25, 2020 - by Drew Cottle The Brisbane Line was a hotly contested idea during World War 2 which envisioned that the northern half of Australia might be abandoned in the event of an invasion by the Japanese. Historian Drew Cottle takes a fresh look behind the controversy in this interesting article, originally published in the Journal of […]
  • Clarrie O’Shea – 50th anniversary of the defeat of the penal powers April 24, 2020 - Author Michael Williss has put together an excellent tribute to the legendary union leader Clarrie O’Shea and the historic industrial struggle he led in 1969. Clarrie was the Victorian Secretary of the Tramways union who was gaoled for an indefinite period by the notorious Sir John Kerr for refusing to hand over the union’s financial […]