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Alfred William (Alf) Carter (c. 1869–1935)

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Alfred William (Alf) Carter (1869-1935) seaman, stoker and trade union official 

Birth: c. 1869 at Deptford, Kent, England, son of James Carter, bricklayer, and Anne, née Vincent. Marriage: 22 May 1901 at 471 Pitt Street, Sydney, Reorganized Church of the Latter Day Saints, to Mary Rosa, domestic, of Windsor. They had three daughters and two sons. Death, 27 September 1935 at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, Sydney. Religion: Anglican. 

  • Lugger and union activist, growing up in various towns in industrial Lancashire.
  • To Australia in 1886. A seaman, ‘with the tang of salt in his blood’, he disembarked at Brisbane.
  • Active in meatworkers’ struggles in North Queensland and imprisoned in Townsville for union militancy, especially in establishing Meatworkers’ Union.
  • Moved south to Newcastle, New South Wales, and established short-lived Ferry and Tugboat Employees’ Union, becoming general secretary in 1908. Was instrumental in improving working conditions for ferry workers, then obliged to work 90-100 hours per week, this being reduced to 60.
  • Secretary of the Newcastle branch of the Seamen’s Union.
  • Helped establish Factory Employees’ Union which merged with Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) in 1922.
  • Became Secretary of AWU factory department. A ‘bitter enemy of the sweat shop’, agitating for Shop Factory Act and better working conditions for its 8000 members.
  • Cause of death: cerebral haemorrhage and arteriosclerosis.
  • A well-attended memorial service was held at Field of Mars Cemetery, Ryde, 8 July 1936, to unveil headstone over grave honouring his 25 years as a union secretary. ‘A leader departs but the cause survives’.
  • Portrait hung in AWU factory department office in 1938, honoring ‘kind and generous…grand old man…one of the old school of Trade Union officials’.

Australian Star
, 8 February 1908, p 14; Labor Daily (Sydney), 13 January 1927, p 6; Australian Worker, 8 July 1936, p 17; 5 October 1938, p 20.

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'Carter, Alfred William (Alf) (c. 1869–1935)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 4 March 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


c. 1869
Deptford, Kent, England


27 September, 1935 (aged ~ 66)
Camperdown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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