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Joseph Anthony (Joe) Bodkin (1902–1950)

by Peter Sheldon

This article was published:

Joseph Anthony Joe Bodkin (1902-1950) labourer, union organiser and Labor politician 

Birth: 11 August 1902 in Lithgow, New South Wales, son of native-born parents George Bodkin, navvy and trade union organiser (1867-1930), and Ellen, née Callaghan, Labor activist. Marriage: 1923 in Marrickville to Mary Elizabeth Delaney (1899-1991). They had six daughters. Death: 18 March 1950 at Little Bay, NSW. Religion: Catholic. 

  • Educated St Brigid’s Convent, Marrickville, and Chapel Street Public School.
  • Railway navvy prior to fourteenth birthday and job delegate at sixteen years of age.
  • Described his occupation as “winder, backdated his age by three years, enlisted in Australian Imperial Force on 3 June 1918 and entered camp, but was rejected as under age.
  • 1924-26 organiser for father’s Railway Workers Industry Branch, Australian Workers’ Union, and conference delegate. Employed by Public Works Department, NSW, on Nepean Dam construction.
  • From 1928 employed by Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board on dam and sewerage construction. 1928-29 Water Board union rank and file activist. Supported secretary W.A. McPherson. 1936-37 secretary, Woronora Dam Branch of union. 1937-50 full-time organiser for Water Board Union.
  • Canny, quick talking, two fisted labour organiser, who combined the cultures of the AWU and industrially conservative, inner-city Australian Labor Party. J. T. Lang supporter in 1930s. Pro-party unity in late 1930s and 1950s.
  • Important fund raiser for ALP, especially among Sydney Starting Price bookmakers, publicans, contractors and navvies. Prominent in Sydney Tattersalls Club, with brother, Nick Bodkin. Member of ALP central executive 1941-50.
  • Labor Member of the Legislative Council of NSW from April 1946 to his death in March 1950. Alderman, Sydney City Council, 1948-50. Employee representative, Sydney County Council, 1949-50.

Heather Radi, Peter Spearritt and Elizabeth Hinton, Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament 1901-1970 (Canberra, 1979); Peter Sheldon, Maintaining control: a history of unionism among employees of the Sydney Water Board, PhD thesis, University of Wollongong, 1989; Reticulator, March, April 1950; Australian Worker, 22 Sept 1926

Citation details

Peter Sheldon, 'Bodkin, Joseph Anthony (Joe) (1902–1950)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012