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David Black (1887–1963)

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David Black (1887-1963) school teacher, trade union leader 

Birth: 4 June 1887 at Maryborough, Victoria, son of Victorian-born parents James Ledden Black (1858-1933), engine driver, and Catherine Paterson, née Grieve (1857-1917). Marriage: 28 December 1910 in Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bendigo, to Victorian-born Mary Anderson Loomes (1884-1967), sales department employee. They had two daughters and four sons. Death: 28 October 1963 in Canterbury, Victoria. Religion: Catholic. 

  • In 1902-3 he drove Tom Mann through a large portion of the Western district of Victoria, stirred by his eloquent addresses.
  • Worked as railway porter at Ararat and Hamilton, and at the railway coal stage at former.
  • In 1904 he began work as teacher in Victoria, working in numerous country towns and Melbourne suburbs.
  • In 1904 he joined the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Natives’ Association (ANA). A member of the Victorian State School Teachers’ Union (VSSTU), in May 1919, when he was head teacher of Yapeen State School, he was appointed paid organiser of the VSSTU for about 15 months. He was said to have increased membership from a few hundred to some 3000.
  • In 1920 he was vice-president of the union and transferred to Preston where he became secretary of the Preston Branch of the ALP, representing Jika at the ALP annual conference. In 1923 he was president, Myrtleford ALP, Progress Association and Rifle Club.
  • Was president of the VSSTU in 1925. That year he was the unsuccessful Labor candidate for Indi in the Federal elections. The following year he was defeated for the VSSTU presidency.
  • From 1926 to 1940 was a board member of the ANA.
  • In 1928 Black was appointed general secretary of the Victorian Teachers Union, which had been formed in August 1926 from an amalgamation of the three former teachers’ unions. A financial scandal precipitated his resignation in January 1931, though he denied wrong doing.
  • Though severely censured for ‘grave breaches’ of regulations pertaining to corporal punishment, and fined by police after an incident in 1932, he was generally a progressive, intellectual and highly regarded teacher. Was a follower of John Dewey and advocate of pupil-centred reforms in teaching practice whereby democratic principles of self-government were introduced in the schoolroom.
  • Becoming Victorian president of the ANA in 1931 he made sensational claim as to what he would do as Mussolini to rectify country’s financial ills and overcome the canker of class differences. Travelled to Western Australia to advise against secession movement.
  • In 1957 retired from teaching service. Remained active in ANA until death.
  • Cause of death: coronary occlusion, coronary sclerosis and congestive cardiac failure, and perforated duodenal ulcer.

, 20 October 1925; Australian Worker (Sydney), 12 December 1928, p 1 []; Teacher’s Journal, 1 April 1926; J. E. Menadue, A Centenary History of the Australian Natives’ Association 1871-1971, (Melbourne, 1971); Herald 1 June 1935; ANA Press, No 1, 1964; Record of Service in Victorian Educational Department.

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Citation details

'Black, David (1887–1963)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


4 June, 1887
Maryborough, Victoria, Australia


28 October, 1963 (aged 76)
Canterbury, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations
Political Activism