Barcaldine – Birthplace of the Australian labour movement

Tuesday, Sep 08, 2009 at 00:00

Motherhen

Barcaldine was central to the shearers’ strike of 1891; the events of which lead to the formation of the Australian Labor Party and the amalgamation of Unions.

By 1889 Queensland shearers and pastoral workers were organised into unions. To counter this, Pastoralists formed the Pastoral Employers Union and set about having shearers sign a contract of free labour, aimed at employing them free of Union rules. The shearers went on strike. From dissent at Logan Downs Station near Clermont the strike spread and Barcaldine became a central point. Pastoralists brought in non union labour under the protection of Police and Troopers. Retaliation took place with reports of crops and woolsheds being set alight. Strikers marched at Barcaldine but the colonial secretary ordered the arrest of the union leaders.

The failure of the strike action prompted the labour movement to turn its attention to the pursuit of political power. T.J. Ryan was elected to the Queensland parliament in 1892, becoming the first labour organisation representative to be elected to a parliament anywhere in the world. This led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party and Australia's first political party. The success of the unified Australian Labour Party led to the formation of the two party system as we know it today.

Tree of Knowledge. The Ghost Gum by the Railway Station became a symbol of the strike and subsequent events and known as the Tree of Knowledge. The tree died in 2006 and has now been replaced with an artificial tree on the original trunk as a Memorial to the historic events.














The Workers Heritage Centre features a circular tent with displays amongst other features such as the Seat of Knowledge.














This Windmill was originally erected at Back Creek, east of Barcaldine, one of the first free flowing bores in Queensland. Near the windmill a monument commemorates the exploration work of the pioneers of the Great Artesian Basin.














South of Barcaldine, we went to the Lloyd Jones Weir where a dusty campground is alongside a small weir on the Alice River. This now disused weir was constructed in the 1950s to supply water to a few properties to irrigate vegetable crops and orchards.














Read more about our 2009 travels complete with lots of photos at 2009 Travelogues and come touring Australia with us via our other travelogues.
Motherhen

Red desert dreaming

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