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James William (Jim) Burgess (1880–1945)

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James William (Jim) Burgess (1881-1945) trade union official

Birth: 25 November 1880 in Quorn, South Australia, son of William Charles Burgess (1852-1891), born in Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, nurseryman, forester and Forestry Department employee, and Ellen Utayana, née Heaven (1855-1934), born in St Mary, Gloucestershire. Marriages: (1) 9 January 1907 in Cue, Western Australia, to Eveline Cook (1884-1929). They had one son and three daughters. (2) 1931 in Perth, WA, to Rebecca Mary McPherson (1903-1991). Death: 3 December 1945 in Perth. Religion: Anglican. 

  • Arrived in Albany, Western Australia from Adelaide aboard the SS Bulimba in January 1896. That year, aged 15, joined Amalgamated Workers’ Association at Coolgardie, WA. Worked some 12 years in the Murchison, including some time as acting secretary of Day Dawn Branch of the AWA. Supported local Labor candidates: Michael Francis Troy, John Barkell Holman and Edward Ernest Heitmann.
  • Moved to Perth about 1911. Appointed organiser for Shop Assistant’s Union, 1913; elected secretary of union when Panton went on war service, 1916-1917, and again in 1919, when Alexander Hugh ‘Frank’ Panton entered Parliament; remained active in the union during the 1920s, establishing country branches and coverage for wool, skins and stores workers; helped to gain full Easter Holiday for shop assistants (Good Friday-Easter Monday).
  • 1922 helped organise Hospital Employees Union; served as secretary 1926-27; was also secretary of Food Preservers’ Union and secretary of Bag, Sack and Textile Employees (1925-1932).
  • Secretary of Fremantle Trades Hall 1925-1933, in which position he argued for improvement of clergy salaries. Also secretary of Fremantle Australian Labor Party District Council.
  • Member, Prices Regulation Commission and chairman, Metropolitan Milk Commission, 1925. Member of the Wheat Advisory Board. Elected councillor for Leaderville Ward in Perth City Council from 1921 to 1930.
  • Moved to Fremantle  about 1930 where he was involved in strike by workers employed in wool, skin and hire stores. Served short gaol sentence after being fined for ‘striking’. Successfully appealed against Financial Emergency Act provisions.
  • in 1934 called meeting to found Perth branch of Australian Pensioners’ League.
  • He was never nominated for election to parliament despite multifarious union activities. ‘A veteran without political ambition’.

Australian Worker
(Sydney), 22 December 1926; 1 June 1927; Westralian Worker, 7 September 1923, 1 December 1939, 27 June 1941. Union membership files 1101/336/1920 (Food Preservers’ Union); 1101/53/1926 (Bag, sack and textile employees); 1101/116/1917 (Metropolitan Shop Assistants’ Union); Pensioner News, 24 October 1946.

Citation details

'Burgess, James William (Jim) (1880–1945)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 13 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Jim Burgess, 1925

Jim Burgess, 1925

State Library of Western Australia, 67935803

Life Summary [details]


25 November, 1880
Quorn, South Australia, Australia


3 December, 1945 (aged 65)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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