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.


This year’s Canberra Labour History Annual General Meeting will be held on Tuesday 27 October, starting at 6.00 pm. The meeting will be held via ZOOM, with a link sent out closer to the date.
Following the formalities, we will be hearing a talk from Stephen Wilks, author of Now is the Psychological Moment, a forthcoming biography of Earle Page. Wilks’ talk will cover some of the material in his biography, touching on Page’s encounters with such varied Labor figures as Jack Lang, John Curtin, Ben Chifley, and Gough Whitlam.

Please see below for full details of the talk and the AGM agenda:

AGM Agenda
Date: 27 October 2020
Time: 6.00 pm

1.      Apologies
2.      Confirmation of Minutes of 2019 AGM
3.      Reports
4.      Election of:
         Vice President
         3 x Committee members
         Branch Delegate to Federal Executive
5.      General Business

Talk Details

Earle Christmas Grafton Page (1880–1961)—surgeon, Country Party leader, treasurer and prime minister, made over decades determined efforts to realise his vision of a regionalised and rationally ordered Australian nation.
Effervescent and somewhat eccentric, Page, like the Country Party itself, is hard to classify ideologically. He was an ardent anti-socialist who also advocated economic planning; a campaigner for new states within the federation who also demanded a powerful central government; and a cultural conservative who condemned the constitution as a wanton barrier to his grand visions.
To Page, party affiliation was less important than implementing his audacious ideas. He engaged with and challenged not just his conservative colleagues, but also such Labor figures as Jack Lang (on creating a new state of northern New South Wales), Curtin (economic planning) and Chifley (post-war reconstruction). In his long public career, he interacted with nine Labor national leaders, from Tudor to Whitlam. Page is also undoubtedly the only person to have sparked the unlikely sight of Labor MPs shouting in defence of Robert Menzies.
Page’s rich career confirms that Australia has long inspired popular ideals of national development, but also suggests that their practical implementation was increasingly challenged during the twentieth century.

 About Stephen Wilks
Stephen Wilks studied economic history at Monash University before embarking on a decidedly mixed career in government based in Canberra and overseas, covering almost as many different issues as did Earle Page himself. This was leavened by a shadow career writing reviews and articles on Australian history and much else, prior to returning to study at The Australian National University’s School of History. He now works in the ANU National Centre of Biography.


If you have not already done so, please renew your membership now.

A membership for the 2020/21 financial year costs $30, or $15 concessional. If you can help, please make a direct deposit to the following CBA account, being sure to include your name:
Account name: Australian Soc Study Labour History
BSB: 06 2903
Account No: 1023 4708

Thanking you

Chris Monnox



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)


Recent articles

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

  • Abolish the penal powers: freedom’s fight of ’69 July 18, 2020 - Abolish the penal powers: freedom’s fight of ’69 John Arrowsmith John Arrowsmith (1913-1997) was a legend of the Melbourne Branch of the ASSLH, a self-educated working class historian, former Branch President, union activist and communist campaigner. In 1969, he was approached by a number of prominent Victorian union officials to write a history of the […]
  • The case for bank nationalisation July 14, 2020 - The case for bank nationalisation This website seeks to bring to life some interesting and noteworthy publications from the past. This booklet is no exception. It dates from 1947 and was the first publication issued by the NSW Fabian Society. The author was the Hon Clarence Edward Martin, NSW Attorney-General from 1941 to 1953 and […]
  • Scullin and Curtin: Through a covid lens July 12, 2020 - by Stephen Holt (A review of Liam Byrne’s new book Becoming John Curtin and James Scullin: The making of the modern Labor Party. The article was published in The Canberra Times of 7 July 2020 and is posted here with the permission of the author.) On 14 December 1918 an election took place in the […]
  • Unions and anti-Chinese agitation on the Victorian goldfields July 12, 2020 - Unions and anti-Chinese agitation on the Victorian goldfields The Clunes riot of 1873 by Jerome Small Small, Jerome – Clunes riot 1873 This paper (access via the above link) was presented at the seventh national Labour History Conference held in Canberra in April 2001. It never appeared in the published proceedings. At a time of […]
  • 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 […]