2011 ASSLH Conference – Entwined Associations: Labour History and Its People in Canberra

Entwined Associations: Labour History and Its People in

Melanie Nolan

Canberra Region Branch, ASSLH 1961-­2011: an association of university, archives, society, unions and dictionary

This is a volume of some of the papers to be presented to the 12th biennial conference of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (ASSLH), to be held in Canberra from 15 to 17 September 2011.2 Producing a volume of papers preceding the ASSLH conference has become commonplace.3 But this is no ordinary biennial conference: it commemorates the half-­centenary of the ASSLH. Milestone anniversaries can offer unique opportunities to historians, providing a focus for celebrations, a chance to develop understanding or an opening to reappraise. The 50th anniversary of the ASSLH coincides with the 100th number of Labour History.4 A special edition of the journal was commissioned and devoted to surveying the state of important areas in Australian labour history: patterns in the historiography, industrial labour, labour and politics, convicts, the role of the state, labour process, consumption and comparative labour history.5 Stuart Macintyre’s keynote address at the conference on `Fifty years hard labour:  a retrospect’ is a contribution to this timely reflection. The 50th anniversary of the British Society for the Study of Labour History (SSLH) last year resulted in several numbers of the Labour History Review reflecting on labour history’s contribution, a volume to commemorate the creation of the society in 1960 which, Eric Hobsbawm remembers, ‘made British labour history for a time the most globally influential in the field’, and a special volume devoted to consideration of the histories of British associations in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.6 There are a number of accounts of various aspects but a history of the ASSLH, or its branches, remains to be written.7 To mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Society, a panel on the ASSLH branches is a feature of the 2011 biennial conference. Although there are convergent narratives among the ASSLH branches, each has its own character, as the role of the Muriel Matters Society in South Australia indicates.

This collection includes several accounts of ASSLH history from the panel on the society’s organisations but it opens with a transcript of Eric Fry’s overview narrative of the society’s formation and development. Fry was closely associated with the Labour History Society and the Labour History journal for over twenty-­five years. It is an earlier version of a paper Fry published in Labour History.Comparison reveals that Fry was a little less formal and guarded in his earlier oral version than in his later polished article. This volume also includes accounts of the Victorian and Western Australian branches by Peter Love and Bobbie Oliver. It hardly needs to be pointed out to labour historians that institutional narratives are constructions. What is remembered and what is forgotten is selective and, whether consciously or unconsciously, shapes the narrative of the society. These foundational accounts will enable, and no doubt constrain, our future organisational memory.9

There is no account yet of the Canberra Region Branch of the ASSLH.10 The branch is only sixteen years old, although a good case can be made that the ASSLH from 1961 to 1986 was the Canberra Region Branch too, and can piggyback on the ASSLH’s foundation accounts, which I will do. But there are seams in the history for there was no society in Canberra for nearly a decade from 1986 to 1995. I am not a participant-­observer. I was in Canberra at the ANU from 1986 to 1989 as a PhD student. I had been told that the ANU was the centre of Australasian labour history and it was the only place I applied for. But as I arrived, Eric Fry was retiring, the journal was being transferred to Sydney, John Merritt was arranging to go part time. The corridors were empty.

The ACT Branch of the ASSLH was formed at ACTU House in the Federated Miscellaneous Workers’ Union rooms in August 1995. It became the Canberra Region Branch in 1999 to indicate its regional and interstate connections, particularly with Queanbeyan and the nearby mining village of Captains Flat.11 The key player in August 1995 was Frank Mines, a retired public servant. Ted Forbes was the secretary of the ACT Branch of the FMWU in whose rooms the branch met; he became founding president.12 Ewan Maidment and Sigrid McCausland, university archivists from the Noel Butlin Archives of Business and Labour, were also involved. The number of academics working on labour history at the ANU had declined to a nadir; John Merritt, who was retired, joined the executive. Most of the committee, however, was made up of a small contingent of committed PhD students, researchers and postdocs, including Frank Bongiorno, Rick Kuhn, Phil Griffiths, Rosemary Webb, Barry Howarth, a number of whom had had stints in the public service or were about to do so.13 The second iteration of the Canberra labour history society was perhaps less academic but the people and the organisations they represented were familiar.

‘Labour history and its people’ in Canberra cannot be constrained to a narrow account of the ASSLH. The ASSLH is part of a wider embedded organisational network including the ANU, the Noel Butlin Archives of Business and Labour, the Labour History editorial board team, the Friends of the Noel Butlin Archives Centre (NBAC) and the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB). The National Museum of Labour launched by UnionsACT is destined to become central to the collective. Kim Sattler is making a presentation on the museum to the conference and the venue includes a museum display.14 A range of Canberra region organisations and their members have been involved in realising the ASSLH’s aim to ‘promote research, publication and teaching in labour history and the preservation of labour records’ over the years and, not surprisingly, are involved in this conference.15

Labour Historians at the ANU

The ANU has played a central part in the life of the ASSLH and the changing position of labour history in Australia. As Fry noted, ‘The pivotal position of the National University nourished labour history throughout Australia’.16 The ANU was established in 1946 as a research institution without undergraduates to pursue research at the highest international standards. It proved to be an opportunity for labour history.17 It was endowed with scholarships for ‘postgraduate research and study both general and in relation to subjects of major importance’. The first `ANU scholars’ were recipients of the ANU overseas scholarships that allowed them to train elsewhere.18 Robin (Bob) Gollan took Keith Hancock’s advice in 1948 and used his scholarship to study with the British Marxist, Labour Party activist and professor of political science, Harold Laski, at the London School of Economics. While a doctoral student in Britain he was influenced by the Communist Party Historians Group, meeting E. P. Thompson and Christopher Hill.19 After returning to Australia in 1951 he took up a research fellowship at the ANU in 1952. Soon he was involved with a group of postgraduates in labour history at the ANU. At least a quarter of the history PhD dissertations emanating from the ANU between 1955-­1967 were, on any definition, labour histories, namely, those by Fry, Russel Ward, Patrick O’Farrell, Ian Turner, Phyllis Mitchell, Miriam Dixson, John Merritt and Jim Hagan.20

This was a huge contribution to the labour capital of Australia. As Stuart Macintyre observed in his obituary of Gollan, `He was a beneficiary of the post-­ war expansion of Australian universities and he was the senior member of the generation of radical historians which included Russel Ward, Ian Turner, Miriam Dixson and Eric Fry. These scholars broadened Australian history to incorporate the experience and aspirations of the labour movement’.21  This generation of committed left-­wing historians took up research that had begun mostly outside the academy, by T. A. Coghlan, V. G. Childe, E. W. Campbell, H. V. Evatt and Brian Fitzpatrick.22 They did so amid cold war politics and at a time when few wished to dwell on unequal outcomes as equal opportunities were emerging.23 In general the labour historians wanted to transform society as well as to study it; they saw the two processes as being linked. The ANU offered these historians an opportunity; quite literally, senior staff `resisted the pressures of the secret police and reactionary politicians’ to block left-­wingers from the academy.24 Gollan owed his tenure at the ANU in a decidedly chilly cold war environment to Keith Hancock’s protection. Hancock was able to use his office as director of Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS) from the late 1950s to create opportunities `for dissenting academics’. Hancock’s role needs emphasising. Senior figures at the University of New South Wales, for instance, prevented Russel Ward’s appointment to a lectureship in history.25 Hancock’s biographer notes that he did not approve of political interference in academic matters. Some parliamentarians had spoken of the ANU as a `nest of Communists’. Hancock was wary of communists whose theories might dictate their answers but he supported those who carried their convictions `lightly’; he admired Turner’s `grasp of the fact’ and Dixson’s articulateness.26 Later Hancock spoke of Ward’s virtues, especially his ADB work, and acted as a referee for him on occasion.

Over the years most historians at the ANU were involved in the society and its activities. Manning Clark provided History Department secretarial assistance to the society from 1967 and head of departments who succeeded him — John Molony and Mick Williams — did likewise.27 Some of them provided more than others’ labour to the cause too. Historians whom one might not categorise as `labour’ contributed to the society: for example, Molony was on the Society’s executive from 1963 to 1973 as either treasurer or secretary.28 Below is a discussion of others involved in the Labour History editorial board. There were few labour historians at the ANU for almost a decade, but Frank Bongiorno has recently joined me in the integrated School of History and, together with Paul Pickering and political scientists, Norman Abjorensen and Rick Kuhn, there is a critical mass at ANU once more. A pleasing aspect of this year’s conference is that the number of postgraduates presenting papers (Cath Bishop, Rowan Day, Mark Gregory, Lian Jenvy, Sophie Scott-­Brown, Scott Stephenson, Chris Wallace, with Grace Millar and James Taylor travelling from New Zealand and Arthur Dowding from the UK). Perhaps this augurs well, as Senator John Faulkner suggests more widely of the labour movement, a ‘Proud past, bright future?’

Labour Archives at the ANU

The second pillar of labour history in Canberra is its archives. Researchers need sources. The economist Noel Butlin had been appointed to a research fellowship at the ANU in 1951 and he began to collect economic records for his research from 1953.29 As the collection built up to include the records of some thirty businesses, an archives officer, Bruce Shields, was employed in 1958 to develop and manage it. (Later Shields worked on a MA thesis on the history of the Australian Boot Workers’ Federation.30) As Shields tells it, he was employed to hunt and gather business records.31 In 1959, the night before he was due to go on a scheduled field trip to Sydney, Gollan told him that Ian Turner and Stephen Murray-­Smith had discussed with him their concerns over the destruction of labour records which were as valuable as business records for research but, also, needed to be collected in the cause of balance in regard to economic relationships. They offered their own collections to the ANU. Shields checked with Butlin, who, along with Gollan, had been on Fry’s supervisory panel and knew the need for labour records.32 With approval, Shields began to investigate collecting employee as well as business records.

By that stage, too, Keith Hancock supported the archives. Hancock had been a member of the Council for the Preservation of Business Archives begun in Britain in 1934 at the LSE and he had been associated with histories commissioned for the `famous business enterprises the Unilevers and Mersyside Docks’.33 The ANU’s vice-­chancellor gave formal approval on 15 April 1959 for a new policy to hold union material on the same basis as business records in terms of storage, access, ownership and security. An Archives Committee was appointed to oversee the administration of the Archives Unit. By March 1960 `ten deposits had been received from unions; a large body of background information had been built up; and a network of contacts had been established’.34 Shields arranged and described them; and encouraged their use for research as he had for business records.

There were demarcation disputes. Melbourne University Archives and the Mitchell Library wished to collect labour history records, too. An agreement in 1961 meant that the National Library of Australia did not collect or accept certain categories of organisational records, namely, those of companies, employer associations and trade unions. Hancock’s RSSS managed to give the archives a new home in the H. C. Coombs building in 1964. The collection was formally named the Archives of Business and Labour in 1975.35 In 1992 the Archives had been renamed the Noel Butlin Archives Centre (NBAC), incorporating the Archives of Business and Labour, following Butlin’s death the previous year. Holdings had expanded from 1,200 shelf metres in 1972 to 13,000 shelf metres.36 Its union treasures included the records of Australia’s peak union council, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, as well as railway unions, coalmining unions, the Australian Workers’ Union, the Waterside Workers’ Federation and metal manufacturing unions records. It holds white-­collar unions records and an array of labour journals. Maggie Shapley’s paper in this collection, `Purposes almost infinitely varying: Archives as sources for labour biography’, systematically gives a contemporary survey of its labour history holdings.

Labour Society

As Fry tells us in his own words, transcribed as the first paper in this collection, the Society was formed at the congress of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS) in Brisbane in May 1961. But it was conceived and developed in Canberra in the preceding year.37 Keith Hancock invited Asa Briggs to Australia.38 Briggs came fresh from founding and being elected chairman of the SSLH in Britain. He led a discussion on the formation of a society for the study of labour history in Australia.39 Fry remembered `leaving Asa Briggs’ meeting with Bob Gollan, enthused by the idea of forming a Labour History Society’.40 Only in some ways did the ASSLH follow the SSLH; the Australian bulletin became an academic journal after a year for there was no competing Past and Present, or later History Workshop, in Australia. Another distinctive feature of the ASSLH setting it apart from its British cousin is the various branches which linked labour activists more fully in the society’s activities.

Fry maintained that the Society was `an independent body’. It was not supported by the ANU but the university cooperated with the society.41 In the early years members of the ANU Labor Club, through its broadsheet The Crucible, accused the Society of becoming a communist front. The article itself concentrates on the breadth of approach in the ASSLH. It noted that the formation of the ASSLH was a `concrete example of the linking of progressive intellectuals with the working class’, the president of the Society was `a working class intellectual’ and `many communists were active and write for the journal’. At the same time, however, it observed that many members of the Society adopted a `reformist and revisionist approach to labour history, wishing to restrict the history of the labour movement to the history of the ALP’. The Crucible concluded that `the Society is as yet not effectively controlled by the Communists’.42 And it never was. But the controversy about the ASSLH being a communist front made it into The Bulletin and had the potential to wreck the Society.43

While ANU academics fronted the ASSLH, some work was done by history postgraduates, such as Len Richardson, who was elected to the committee.44 The corresponding committee, however, was largely not academic but a national collaboration and included: Lloyd Ross, secretary of the Railways Union, and F. Wells in Sydney; Bob Hawke and Sam Merrifield in Melbourne; and W. J. H. Harris, A. MacDonald and H. Peebles in Brisbane.45 Increasingly, as befits the occupational profile of Canberra, public servants figured in our membership.

The journal: Labour History

The first three numbers of the Bulletin of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, appeared in 1962.46 In May 1963 it became Labour History: Bulletin of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History.  As Fry described it, Labour History was `an academic journal in the sense that academics do most of the work on it. We have deliberately set out to make it not too esoteric. We welcome articles from non-­academics and try to bridge the gap between the universities and the outside world … we take labour history widely to include all the life of the common people, political history is not dominant’.47 Similarly Frank Bongiorno pointed to `the fellowship of the activist and scholar’ and the concern for the `labour movement’s struggle for social justice and a healthy skepticism concerning the illusion of disinterested scholarship as being history’ as central characteristics of the ASSLH and its Bulletin (later Labour History).48

Fry was `quite proud’ of the journal’s achievements and was `confident we will go on and do more’. By the mid-­1970s the print run was over 1,200.49 For the first decade a loose collective effectively edited the journal with Fry, Shields, B. J. MacFarland, Hagan, Merritt, Bede Nairn, Robert Cooksey, Molony and John Ritchie all involved.50 Ritchie took over editing from number 19 (November 1970) and for the next three years he was on the editorial board when he was not Editor. Jill Waterhouse edited number 23 (November 1972) with John Iremonger, Merritt and Graeme Osborne editing a special number on strikes.51 David Walker edited numbers 25 to 28 (November 1973 to May 1975) with Ann Curthoys, Susan Eade, and Peter Spearitt editing a special number on women at work.52 Merritt edited the journal from number 30 to 50, from 1976 to 1986, with just two editorial breaks: Ann Curthoys and Andrew Marcus edited a special number on racism53 and Susan Allen edited number 44 (May 1983). John Knott was joint editor for the last two numbers. Merritt has noted the number of PhD students who worked on the journal in his period of editorship, singling out Leanne Kerr and Libby Plumridge and also tutors and research assistants, Waterhouse, Moira Scolley, Susan Allen and Christine Wise.54

When Labour History moved to Sydney in 1986 Ken Buckley observed in his first editorial that Canberra was a `narrower milieu’ than Sydney.55 And yet like the Labour History Society, the `journal team’ included over the years historians whom one might not categorise as `labour’, including Australian historians Molony, Ritchie, Chris Connolly, Pacific historian Hank Nelson, British historian F. B. Smith and African expert and `tame conservative’, Ian Hancock. Labour historians at ANU would have struggled even more to sustain the journal without these `fellow travellers’, but their involvement, in turn, widened Labour History’s influence. During the period that Merritt was editor, the editorial team included at one time: Markus, Nelson, Jacqueline Templeton, Graeme Osborne, R.F. I. Smith, Spearitt, Connolly, Stephen Alomes, Curthoys, Susan Magarey, Fry, Ian Hancock, Allen, Wise, Stuart Macintyre, Chris Fisher, Andrew Wells, Gillian Higginson, Knott, Jill Matthews, Marian Aveling, and Hilary Kent. One consequence of the `narrower milieu’, was that new left, feminist, race, and transnational perspectives were included rather than involving the organisation in ideological turmoil.56 Ironically, a deficit of `labour historians’ strengthened the project.

The Friends of the Noel Butlin Archives Centre and the Campaign to Save the

While the organisation seemed to be non-­existent for a decade after the journal shifted to Sydney, the wider network still operated, as was made clear when the Archives were threatened with closure in the mid 1990s. In 1997 ANU’s vice-­ chancellor, Deane Terrill, sought to `re-­prioritize resources’, which resulted in cuts of 20 per cent to the arts faculty. The RSSS had funded the archives but was under financial pressure leading up to this decision; between 1994 and 1997 the archives staff had been reduced from six professional archivists and two support staff to just 2.5 archivists and one support staff.57 On 22 August 1997 Professor Ian McAllister, the new RSSS director, announced that it was proposed to close the NBAC on 31 December 1997 unless some way could be found to divest the School of budgetary responsibility for it.58 Otherwise the director would seek to disperse the holdings of the NBAC to other institutions. Any deposits remaining (due to legal considerations, lack of an accepting institution or the like) would be placed in the ANU library. At its federal executive meeting on Friday 29 August 1997, the ASSLH called upon all its members and friends to support an international campaign to stop the closure. A coalition of `NBAC supporters in the ASSLH, the unions, the universities, both major political parties, professional bodies and business and employer groups’ formed itself into the `Friends of NBAC Interim Committee’ and successfully opposed the closure. They raised a number of issues to do with custodian obligations as the keeper of nationally significant collections. The archives were usually described as one of two leading repositories of business records in Australia and the preeminent repository of trade union records.

Although the archives were saved, the staff numbers were reduced to just two.59 The interim defence committee was re-­established as a standing committee, the Friends of the NBAC. Rosemary Webb, as president, with the support of Anthea Hyslop, Merritt and Simon Ville, maintained pressure such as a meeting in 2000 to lobby the ANU `to properly maintain the Noel Butlin Archives Centre and give ongoing support to this most important source for the history of Australian enterprise and working life’.60 The new vice-­chancellor, Professor Ian Chubb, acted upon the petitions from federal parliamentarians in 2001 and put an end to the threat to the archives. In 2001 the NBAC, together with the University Archives, became part of the ANU Archives Program and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2003.

Relationship between ADB and the ASSLH

Perhaps the surprising association is between the ADB and the ASSLH. A number of historians have pointed to a strong tradition of the study of the role of the individual in Australian labour history.61 In 2008, Paul Pickering, in his review of Volume 17 of the ADB highlighted that `labour historians can but lament the silences and omissions in what is still basically an elite enterprise’.62 He complained that there were many more knights than commoners in the ADB. This issue is being addressed in a paper at the conference.63 Mark Hearn and Harry Knowles note that there has been no attempt to produce an Australian equivalent to the multi-­volume Dictionary of Labour Biography 1972-­2010.64 However, Andrew Moore, Yasmin Rittau and John Shields are presenting a paper, included in this collection, on the forthcoming Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement 1788-­1975, which will incorporate lives of over 2,000 who have been under-­represented.65

Having said that, Canberra-­based labour historians have contributed generously to the ADB. Among Gollan’s nine articles, were articles on unionists and activists Guido Baracchi, Peter Bowling, Percy Brookfield, James Curly, John Dooley. Fry wrote on Tom Barker and Monty Miller; Merritt on James Toomey; Nairn wrote eighty articles, ten of whom were on trade unionists, labour politicians or both.

Gerry Walsh, the largest single contributor to the ADB, has written 192 articles and was also on the ASSLH executive. Chris Cunneen, an ADB deputy General Editor, was also an active labour history researcher, and the biographer of William McKell. Molony and Ian Hancock, whose involvement in Labour History has been noted above, are biographical fellows in the ADB. As with the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, a number of General Editors of the ADB have been labour historians or worked closely with the ASSLH.66 Nairn was involved with the ASSLH in Sydney and then General Editor of the ADB; Ritchie edited Labour History in the early 1970s and was a long-­standing member of the ASSLH executive. Serle and Nairn’s role as joint General Editors had some important implications in that labour politicians and unionists were well covered in the ADB in those years. My appointment in June 2008 follows in what is almost a `tradition’.

The Canberra Region Branch of the ASSLH 1995 on

The Canberra branch was not the only branch to have a chequered history. The ASSLH was established in 1961 with the federal executive serving as an umbrella organisation for regional branches that formed in Sydney and Melbourne in 1962. While the Melbourne branch has been longstanding, the Sydney branch went into abeyance and was reformed in 1983.67 The history of the Melbourne branch of the ASSLH formed in 1962 has been seamless, followed by the smaller groups in Tasmania, Hunter Valley, and the Illawarra. The Perth and Adelaide Branches were formed in August 1988,68 and the Brisbane Labour History Association in 1990.

In 2004 the Canberra Branch, in association with the ANU’s National Institute for Social Sciences and Law (NISSL), launched a scholarship to assist postgraduate students with their researching at the NBAC. It was Phil Griffith’s idea to use the surplus left after the 2001 conference to establish a scholarship.69 The name of the scholarship was changed to the Eric Fry Research Grant after his death in 2007.

The branch successfully lobbied the New Zealand High Commission and the ACT government for funding to erect a monument to the trans-­Tasman socialist Harry Holland’s memory in Canberra, which was unveiled last year at the Ginninderra Village, near his birthplace. Having been born in the Canberra region, Holland was apprenticed as a compositor on the Queanbeyan Times, before becoming a socialist activist. He crossed the Tasman Sea to join the socialist movement in New Zealand, entering parliament and becoming Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party.70

More recently the Canberra Region Branch members are among the foundation members of the National Museum of Labour project. In November 2010, the UnionsACT led by Kim Sattler gathered the Canberra Region Branch of ASSLH, together with labour law firm Slater and Gordon and others, to launch its campaign.71 Most visibly, the Canberra Region Branch hosts seminars, book launches and conferences, notably a two-­day conference commemorating John Merritt’s work in 1999,72 the Seventh Biennial National Labour History Conference, ‘Work, Organisation, Struggle’ in 2001 and ‘The Communist Party Dissolution Bill – 60 years on’ in 2010, parts of which were later broadcast on ABC Radio National.73 Finally the branch has sponsored publications including two pre-­conference books of papers and Phil Griffiths and Hal Alexander’s A Few Rough Reds: stories of rank and file organizing.74

The ASSLH Canberra Branch is a small group of twenty-­four members. There are only five members on the committee, with myself as president, Peter Ellett as secretary, Bill Thompson as treasurer and committee members Frank Cain and Norman Abjorensen. It has been a considerable undertaking to organise the national labour conference. We have relied on the assistance of a great many others. We are grateful to our sponsors: the National Centre of Biography, ANU; RSSS, ANU; Research School of Humanities and the Arts ANU; College of Arts and Social Science; the federal executive of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History; School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales and the Australian Defence Forces Academy; Canberra Labor Club Group and UnionsACT.

The Committee acknowledges the assistance of the NCB/ADB staff, Karen Ciuffetelli, Christine Fernon and Dr Gail Clements. For the NCB/ADB to be involved, the theme had to be biography. This conference with sixty papers on this theme reveals that labour history and biography is a vital area. There is almost an even divide between men and women as presenters and nearly a third of papers are by and about women. Feminist labour history has been very strong in Australia-­ the six ‘Women and Labour’ conferences from 1978 to 1998 attest to this.75 The presentations at this conference indicate the extent of `mainstreaming’ of gender history within labour history. Biography as a theme might seem old-­ fashioned and institutional. In general the papers at this conference also reveal that biography is being used in new ways, with themes such as place, ideology and belief, identity and transnationalism.

We are also grateful to Maggie Shapley, the NBAC and the Friends of the Noel Butlin Archives Centre for sharing John Faulkner as our speaker. Finally, and in keeping with the argument of this introduction, we should note the role of Faulkner (then Labor Party Leader in the Senate) in the Canberra Region Branch issues over a number of years. With Senator Robert Ray, he was active in supporting the campaign against closure of the NBAC. Faulkner also provided generous support to the 2001 conference held in Canberra, including organising and hosting a showing of political material from the National Film and Sound Archives that he arranged to be collated. He attended the whole conference and chaired a session. He is a National Museum of Labour patron and one of those `entwined threads’ in the Canberra Region Branch’s history.
1   I am grateful to Frank Bongiorno, Phil Griffiths and Peter Ellett for their comments on an earlier draft and to Ian Hancock for discussing the ASSLH’s history with me.
2   Previous conferences were: the Inaugural National Labour History Conference, University of
Sydney, 1988; Second Australian Society for the Study of Labour History National Conference, Melbourne Trades Hall, 10-­12 July 1991;`Celebration of History’, Third Biennial National Conference, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Newcastle, 24-­27 June 1993; 4th Labour History Conference, University of Adelaide, 28-­30 September 1995; `Frontiers of Labour’ the Fifth National Conference of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour history, Perth 2-­4 October 1997; Labour and Community’, the Sixth National Biennial Conference of Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Wollongong 2-­4 October 1999; ‘Work, Organisation, Struggle’, the Seventh Biennial National Labour History Conference, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Canberra Region, held at the Australian National University, Canberra, April 19-­21, 2001; ‘Transforming Labour: Work, Workers, Struggle and Change’, the Eighth Biennial National Labour History Conference, Griffith University Brisbane, October, 2003; ‘The Past is Before Us’, the Ninth Biennial National Labour History Conference, Sydney University, 30 June – 2 July 2005;`Labour Traditions’, the 10th Biennial National Labour History Conference, Melbourne 4-­6 July 2007; ‘Labour History in the New Century’, the 11th National Labour History Conference of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (ASSLH), Perth, 8 to 10 July 2009.
3   There were no preceding books for the first four conferences. Patrick Bertola and Janis Bailey (eds.) Frontiers of Labour: Proceedings of the Fifth National Conference of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History: Perth, Western Australia 2-­4 October 1997, (Perth: ASSLH Perth Branch, 1997). Robert Hood and Ray Markey, (eds.) Labour and Community: Proceedings of the 6th National Labour History Conference of the ASSLH: hosted by the Illawara Branch, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Wollongong, NSW, 2-­4 October 1999, (Wollongong: The Branch, Dept. of Economics, University of Wollongong, 1999). Phil Griffiths & Rosemary Webb, (eds.), Work, Organisation, Struggle: Papers from the seventh national labour history conference held at the Australian National University, Canberra, April 19-­21, 2001 (Canberra: Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Canberra Region Branch, 2001). B. Bowden & J. Kellett, (eds.), Transforming labour: work, workers, struggle and change: Proceedings of the 8th National Labour History conference held at Griffith University, Brisbane, October, 2003, (Brisbane: Brisbane Labour History Association, 2003). Greg Patmore, John Shields and Nikola Balnave, (eds.) The Past is Before Us (Sydney:Australian Society for the Study of Labour History and Business and Labour History Group,2005). Julie Kimber, Peter Love and Phillip Deery (eds.), Labour Traditions: Proceedings of the tenth national labour history conference, held at the University of Melbourne, ICT Building, Carlton, Victoria, Australia, 4–6 July 2007, (Melbourne: Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Melbourne, 2007). Bobbie Oliver (ed.) Labour History in the New Century (Perth: Black Swan Press, 2009).
4   The society is older than the journal but there were three numbers of the Bulletin of the
Australian Society for the Study of Labour History in 1962 (January, May and November).
5   Labour History, no. 100 (May 2011).
6   Eric Hobsbawm, `Preface: Looking Back Half a Century’ in Joan Allen, Alan Campbell and John
McIlroy (eds.),  Histories of Labour: National and International Perspectives (Monmouth: Merlin, 2010),5. John McIlroy, Alan Campbell, John Halstead, David Martin (eds.), Making History. Organizations of Labour Historians in Britain since 1960, Labour History Review Fiftieth Anniversary Supplement, vol. 75 (April 2010), 1.
7   Peter Love, `An Interview with E.C. Fry’, Hummer, no. 31/2, (March/August 1991). Eric Fry,
`The Labour History Society (ASSLH): A Memoir of its First Twenty Years’, Labour History, no. 77 (November 1999), 83-­96. Terry Irving, `ASIO and the Labour History Society: An Incident in
1964’, Hummer, vol. 4, no. 1, (Summer 2003/4), 25-­35. John Merritt, `R.A. Gollan, E. C. Fry, and
the Canberra Years of the ASSLH’, no. 94 (May 2008), 17-­23. Bruce Shields, `Memoir. Australian Society for the Study of Labour History: A Brief Personal Account of the First Three years’, Labour History, no. 99 (November 2010), 187-­202.
8   Fry published a close descendant, `The Labour History Society (ASSLH): A Memoir of its First
Twenty Years’.
9   For a discussion of the `foundation myth of’ benign academics `moving away from the controls and dogmas of the Communist Party’ see Terry Irving, `ASIO and the Labour History Society: An Incident in 1964’, The Hummer, vol. 4, no. 1, (Summer 2003/04), first presented as a dinner address at the Eighth Australian Labour History Conference, Brisbane, 4 October 2003.
10   The Australian Society for the Study of Labour History Deposit P132 at the NBAC covers only the period 1961 to 1977.
11   `Welcome from the Canberra Region Branch of the ASSLH’, in Griffiths & Webb (eds.), Work, Organisation, Struggle.
12   Ted Forbes (1928) interviewed by Edgar Waters (1925-­2008), (Canberra, National Library of
Australia (NLA), 1998) 453509, Oral TRC 3756.
13   Phil Griffiths to Melanie Nolan, 29 August 2011: Frank Bongiorno left Canberra for the
University of New England not long after.
14   See the Canberra content of the Museum of Labour’s quarterly magazine, Now and Then, no. 1 (Summer 2011).
15   Letter Eric Fry to Max Harris, 3 July 1967, Noel Butlin Archives Centre, Australian National
University (NBAC), P132/1/62.
16   Eric Fry’s Account of the History of the ASSLH in this collection.
17   Australian National University Act 1946 established The ANU and outlined its organisation and structure
18   S. G. Foster and M. M. Varghese, The Making of the Australian National University 1946-­1996 (St Leonards, NSW: Allen and Unwin, 1996), 61-­64.
19   Stuart Macintyre,` Obituary. Robin Gollan (1917-­2007)’, Labour History, no. 94 (May 2008), 7-­10. Sarah Gregson, `Vale Eric Fry and Robin Gollan’, Socialist Worker Australia, no. 575 (16 November 2007).
20   There were 33 PhDs awarded between 1955 and 1962: Jim Hagan, `A History of the Typographical Societies and The Printing Industry Employees’ Union of Australia, 1850-­1927’ (1967); John Merritt, `A History of the Federated Iron Workers’ Association of Australia, 1909-­
1952’ (1967); Miriam Dixson, `Reformists and Revolutionaries: An Interpretation of the Relations Between the Socialists and the Mass Labour Organisations in New South Wales, 1919-­1927, with special reference to Sydney’ (1965);  Phyllis Mitchell, `Social Aspects of the Depression in New South Wales, 1930-­1934’ (1964); Ian Turner, `Industrial labor and politics: The dynamics of the labor movement in eastern Australia, 1900-­1921’ (1962); Patrick O’Farrell, `H.E. Holland and the labour movement in Australia and New Zealand: With special emphasis on the activity of militant socialists’ (1960); Russel Ward. `The ethos and influence of the Australian pastoral worker’ (1956); Eric Fry `The condition of the urban wage-­earning classes in Australia in the 1880s’ (1956). Merritt acknowledges Gollan’s role in his, `R.A. Gollan, E.C. Fry, and the Canberra years of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour’, 18.
21   Macintyre, `Obituary. Robin Gollan (1917-­2007)’, 7.
22   Terry Irving and Sean Scalmer, ‘Labour Historians as Labour Intellectuals: Generations and Crises’, in David Palmer, Ross Shanahan and Martin Shanahan (eds.), Australian Labour History Reconsidered (Adelaide: Australian Humanities Press, 1999), 234-­6. T. A. Coghlan, Statistical Account of the Seven Colonies of Australasia, 1901-­1902 (Sydney: WA Gullick, NSW Government Printer, 1902) and Statistical Account of Australia and New Zealand 1903-­4, eleventh issue, (Sydney: WA Gullick, NSW Government Printer, 1904). Vere Gordon Childe, How Labour Governs: A study of workers’ representation in Australia, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1964). H. V. Evatt, William Holman: Australian Labour Leader, (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1979). Brian Fitzpatrick, Australian People, 1788-­1945, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1946). E. W. Campbell, History of the Australian Labor Movement: A Marxist Interpretation (Sydney: Current Book Distributors, 1945).
23   Verity Burgmann, ‘“A Greater Concentration of Purpose”: The Intellectual Legacy of Eric Fry and Robin Gollan’, Labour History, no. 94, (May 2008), 21-­41. John Merritt, ‘Editorial’, Labour History, no. 50 (May 1986), vii. Frank Bongiorno, ‘Labour History’, in Graeme Davidson, John Hirst and Stuart Macintyre (eds.), Oxford Companion to Australia History, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2001), 373. Eric Fry, ‘The Writing of Labour History in Australia’, in Eric Fry (ed.), Common Cause: Essays in Australian and New Zealand Labour History (Wellington and Sydney: Allen & Unwin/Port Nicholson Press, 1986), 146.
24   Robin Gollan, ‘Looking Back’, in Bain Attwood (ed.), Labour Histories, (Melbourne: Monash
Publications in History, 1994), 1-­12.
25   Stuart Macintyre and Anna Clark, The History Wars (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press,
2003), 6-­8.
26   Jim Davidson, A Three-­Cornered Life. The Historian W. K. Hancock (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2010), 381-­382.
27   Bruce Shields, Secretary ASSLH to Manning Clark 1 May 1967, NBAC, P132/1/33.
28   ASSLH, Secretary’s Report, Ninth General Meeting Canberra, 1 September 1963, NBAC,
P132/4/1/2. See also Series 28, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, 1979-­95, MS
6634, Papers of John Molony, NLA.
29   N. G. Butlin, Business Records at the Australian National University (Canberra: The Australian National University, 1956). Michael Saclier, ‘ANU Founders -­  Noel Butlin’ ABLative, no.13 (Autumn/Winter 1991).
30   Canberra Times, 4 April 1968, NBAC, P132/15/12.
31   R. C. Sharman, ‘Collections of archives maintained for teaching and research purposes’ in LAA Proceedings of the 16th biennial conference (Sydney, LAA 1972), 183. Sue Fairbanks, ‘Social warrants for collective memory: case studies of Australian collecting archives’, MA (Archives & Records) thesis (Melbourne: Monash University, 1999) 67-­72, 104-­5.
32   Burgmann, ‘“A Greater Concentration of Purpose”’, 30.
33   W. K. Hancock, foreword, in second edition, Noel Butlin, Business Records at the Australian
National University (Canberra: The Australian National University, 1966).
34   Bruce Shields, ‘The first Archives Officer (1958-­1967)’ in Howarth and Maidment (eds.), Light
From the Tunnel, 41-­3.
35   Peter Moore and Ewan Maidment, ‘The Archives of Business and Labour, 1954-­1982’, Labour
History, no. 44 (May 1983), 107-­12.
36   Howarth and Maidment (eds.), Light From the Tunnel.
37   Fry, ‘The Labour History Society’, 83.
38   See Frank Bongiorno, `Asa Briggs and the Remaking of Australian historiography, 1955-­1985’, paper presented to `Lord Asa Briggs: A Celebration’, symposium on the occasion of Brigg’s 90th birthday, Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 19
May 2011. My thanks to Frank Bongiorno for a copy of this paper. Hancock left for a 9-­month sabbatical as Briggs arrived at the ANU, See Davidson, A Three-­Cornered Life, 408.
39   John McIlroy, Alan Campbell, John Halstead, David Martin (eds.), Making History.
Organizations of Labour Historians in Britain since 1960, Labour History Review Fiftieth Anniversary
Supplement, vol. 75 (April 2010), 1.
40   Love, `An Interview with E. C. Fry’. John McIlroy, `Asa Briggs and the Emergence of Labour
History in Post-­War Britain: A Note’, paper to `Lord Asa Briggs: A Celebration’ symposium.
41   Fry to Harris, 3 July 1967.
42   R. Gollan, ‘Australian Labour History’, in G. S. Kealey and G. Patmore (eds.), Canadian and
Australian Labour History. Towards a Comparative Perspective, Australian-­Canadian Studies, (Brisbane: 1990), 8.
43   The Bulletin, 13 June 1964, 17. Irving, `ASIO and the Labour History Society: An Incident in
44   Postgraduate students in labour history at the ANU from 1967 to 1986 included: Adrienne
Merritt, Verity Burgmann, Susan Eade, Frank Farrell, Len Richardson, Bruce Mitchell. Richardson became vice-­president, see 8th General Meeting, 16 August 1972, NBAC, P132/4/1/2.
45   Report of the First AGM, 21 April 1962, NBAC, P132/19.
46   Greg Patmore has surveyed the first three numbers in ‘The Right Wing Won’t Write’: Labour
History in 1962’, Labour History, no. 82 (May 2002), vii. Frank Bongiorno and others have analysed the content of Labour History over the years.
47   Fry to Harris, 3 July 1967.
48   Frank Bongiorno, `Australian Labour History: Context, Trends and Influences, Labour History, no. 100 (May 2011), 1-­18.
49   Labour History Pamphlet, NBAC, P132/7.
50   Eric Fry was listed as Editor for nos. 1 and 2 of the Bulletin (January and May 1963). Eric Fry
and Bruce Shields were joint editors for no. 3 (November 1963). Robin Gollan and Bruce Shields were joint editors for Labour History, nos. 4 & 5 (May and November 1963). The Editorial Board was E. C. Fry, J. S. Hagan, B MacFarlane, B. D. Shields, for no. 6 (May 1964). The Editorial Board
was E. C. Fry, J. S. Hagan, B. J. MacFarlane, J. Merritt for no. 7 (November 1964). The Editorial Board was R. A. Gollan, J. S. Hagan, B. J. MacFarlane and reviews editor, G. W. Ford for no. 8
(May 1965). The Editorial Board was B. J. MacFarlane, E. C. Fry, J. S. Hagan and reviews editor, G.
W. Ford for no. 9 & 10 (November 1965 and May 1966). The Editorial Board was B. J. MacFarlane, N. Bede Nairn, R. J. Cooksey and reviews editor, G. W. Ford nos. 11, 12, 13 & 14 (November 1966 & May & November 1967, May 1968) with J. S. Hagan being review editor for no. 13 & 14. The Editorial Board was B. J. MacFarlane, J. Molony, N. Bede Nairn and Robert Cooksey, with J. S. Hagan review editor for no. 15 (November 1968). Robert Cooksey was the editor of the special number on depression no. 16 (May 1969). The Editorial Board was J. D. Ritchie, J. N. Molony, N. Bede Nairn and G. Osborne, with J. S. Hagan review editor for no. 18 (May 1970).
51   Strikes Studies in Twentieth century Australian History, Labour History, no. 24 (May 1973).
52   Women at Work, Labour History, no. 29 (November 1975).
53   Ann Curthoys and Andrew Markus (eds.), Who are our Enemies? Racism and the Working Class in Australia, Labour History, no. 35 (November 1978.
54   Merritt, `R. A. Gollan, E. C. Fry, and the Canberra Years of the ASSLH’.
55   K. Buckley, Editorial, Labour History, no. 51 (November 1986), v.
56   Merritt, `R.A. Gollan, E. C. Fry, and the Canberra Years of the ASSLH’.
57   The RSSS would have saved with an annual operating budget of $250,000.
58   Prof. Ian McAllister was RSSS Director 1997-­2004.
59   ‘The Noel Butlin Archives Centre Saved’, The Hummer, vol. 2, no. 9, (Summer 1997/8).
60   See press releases reproduced in Workers Online;? for example, (24 February 2000;? 3 March 2000).
61   Mark Hearn and Harry Knowles, ‘Representative Lives? Biography and Labour History’,
Labour History, no. 100 (May 2011), 127-­43.
62   P.A. Pickering, `Review of D. Langmore (ed.), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17,
1981-­1990, A-­K’, Labour History, no. 95, (November 2008), 271-­3.
63   Melanie Nolan, ‘Multivocality: the ADB, the Obituaries Australia and working-­class
biography’, paper to the 12th Biennial National Labour History Conference, Australian National
University, 16 September 2011.
64   Keith Gildard and David Howell (eds.), Dictionary of Labour Biography, (Hampshire: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2010).
65   Andrew Moore is an associate editor of Labour History and a member of the NSW working party of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
66   Brian Harrison was second editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, published by Oxford University Press, from January 2000 to September 2004 and he was succeeded by Lawrence Goldman.
67   `The New Sydney Branch of the Labour History Society’, The Hummer, no. 1, (June 1983).
68   `Formation of South Australian Branch of the Labour History Society’, The Hummer, no. 20
(April/June 1988).
69   Griffiths to Nolan, 29 August 2011.
70   P. J. O’Farrell, Harry Holland: militant socialist (Canberra: Australian National University, 1964).
71   ‘National Museum of Labour Formed in Canberra’, Now and Then. Magazine of the National
Museum of Labour, no. 2 (Autumn 2011), 3.
72   L. Blackley, ‘Labour History in Australia Since 1975: A Retrospective and a Look Forward, Canberra Region Branch Conference ASSLH, 4-­5 December, Labour History (May 2000), 204-­5.
73   Griffiths & Webb (eds.), Work, Organisation, Struggle.
74   Hal Alexander and Phil Griffiths, A Few Rough Reds: stories of rank and file organizing (Canberra: Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Canberra Region Branch, 2003).
75   There were six ‘Women and Labour Conferences’ from 1978 to 1997: (no 1. 1978 at Macquarie University, no. 2 1980 at La Trobe University, no. 3 1982 at Adelaide, no. 4 1984 at Brisbane); no. 5, 1995 at Macquarie University and no. 6 1997 at Deakin University).


Melanie Nolan is Professor of History, Director of the National Centre of Biography and General Editor of the Australian Dictionary of Biography at the Australian National University. She has worked in the public service; between 1992 and 2008 she taught at Victoria University of Wellington. Her publications include Breadwinning: New Zealand women and the state (2000) and Kin: a collective biography of a New Zealand working-class family (2005). She is currently writing a history of work, the state and Australasian society in the twentieth century.