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William (Bill) Carey (1887–1928)

by Peter Sheldon

This article was published:

William (Bill) Carey (1887-1928) labourer, trade union organiser and Labor politician 

Birth: 5 February 1887 in Redfern, Sydney, New South Wales, son of Irish immigrants both born in County Clare, Ireland, Patrick Carey (1847-1889), labourer, and Margaret, née Fitzgerald (1857-1917). Marriage: 12 May 1915 at St Benedict’s Church, Chippendale, Sydney, to Margaret Ellen Joyce. They had one son and two daughters. Death: 22 January 1928, in Petersham, Sydney. Religion: Catholic.

  • In March 1889 Bill’s father was killed by a fall of earth while navvying on a building site in Sydney, leaving his widow to raise four young children. The family lived at Ivy Street, Redfern, and Bill was educated by the Marist Brothers at St Benedict’s School, Broadway, Sydney.
  • As a youth he was a champion step dancer of NSW.
  • Educated at St Benedict’s School, Sydney.
  • Temporary maintenance labourer, Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board, then organiser and Assistant-Secretary, Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage Employees’ Association, 1909-1919. Union representative on wages boards; delegate to NSW Trades and Labor Council.
  • Delegate to Australian Labor Party State conferences 1913-19. Member of ALP Executive 1918-19. Opposed conscription.
  • Close to Bailey faction in Australian Workers’ Union, an adroit move for ‘a minor official from an insignificant union’. Strongly anti-Trades Hall Reds.
  • General Secretary, NSW Branch ALP from 1919 to 27. Suspended from ALP in June 1927 after backing losing AWU (F. Conroy) faction.
  • Member of the Legislative Council of NSW from December 1925 to January 1928.
  • A member, of the Catholic Club, Sydney, and of St Benedict’s branch of the Australasian Holy Catholic Guild of St Mary and St Joseph.
  • Cause of death myocardial degeneration and syncope.
  • A commemorative fund was established for Carey’s widow and children.

Heather Radi, Peter Spearritt and Elizabeth Hinton, Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament 1901-1970 (Canberra, 1979); Australian Worker, 25 January 1928, p 15 []; Labor News, 21 June 1919, 1 November 1919, 12 June 1920, 28 August 1920; NSW Parliamentary Debates, vol. 113, 17 April 1928, pp. 1-2; Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage Employees Association, Committee minutes, 3 December 1909; Peter Sheldon, Maintaining control: a history of unionism among employees of the Sydney Water Board, PhD thesis, University of Wollongong, 1989.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Peter Sheldon, 'Carey, William (Bill) (1887–1928)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


5 February, 1887
Redfern, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


22 January, 1928 (aged 40)
Petersham, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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.

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