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John Napthali (Jack) Dias (1861–1924)

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John Napthali (Jack) Dias (1861-1924) cabinet-maker, trade union leader 

Birth: 11 May 1861 in Melbourne, Victoria, son of English-born parents [Mordecai] Mark Gomes Dias (1829-1900), publican, later lapidary, of Portuguese heritage, and Caroline Victoria, née Lewis (1838-1923). Unmarried. Death: 13 August 1924 in Cheltenham, Melbourne. Religion: Jewish. 

  • Childhood spent in Melbourne, then travelled to New Zealand goldfields and Bendigo, becoming cabinet-maker. Returned to Melbourne, becoming founding secretary of Carpenters' & Cabinet Makers' Union.
  • To North Queensland. Participated in formation of Queensland Shearers' Union (1886). Chairman of strike camp at Hughenden station during 1891 shearers' strike. Arrested on charge of making threats against local publican, but not convicted.
  • To Sydney, then to Broken Hill during 1892 dispute. Australian Workers’ Union organiser; president of AWU Northern branch.
  • Joined William Lane's New Australia settlement, Paraguay, 1893. Followed Lane to Cosme Colony 1894. 1897 took one year's leave of absence from Cosme to attend to 'pressing business in Australia'; resigned from colony 18 months later.
  • Moved to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia in 1898. Was president Kalgoorlie branch of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters' and Joiners [ASC&J], 1902-1905. Delegate to and active member of Goldfields Trades and Labour Council. Was TLC vice-president, then president, but resigned after seven months.
  • Was president of Eastern Goldfields Division of Political Labour Council and of the Goldfields Eight Hours Committee. In 1906 unsuccessful Labor candidate for North-Eastern Province, WA Legislative Council, campaigning for the Legislative Council’s abolition.
  • To Broken Hill, where he was member of Trades Hall Trust, secretary of library committee of the Broken Hill Democratic Club. Was active in Broken Hill lockout 1908-9. Subsequently returned to Melbourne.
  • Was Amalgamated Society of Carpenters' and Joiners delegate to Melbourne Trades Hall Council (MTHC) 1911-1919, member MTHC Building Trades Committee and Workmen’s Compensation Act Committee and representative on University Extension Committee. Member ASC&J Federal Council. 1914-22 secretary Victorian State Management Committee ASC&J. Represented Australian union at General Council of ASC&J. Represented Australian union as ASC&J Grand Council in England 1916. Suffered recurrence of rheumatic fever contracted in Paraguay.
  • Achieved agreement for separation of Australian union from British parent body. Took leading role in amalgamation of carpenters' unions in early 1920s. After red flag banned under War Precautions Act, originated motion that no flag would be flown from Trades Hall until ban lifted.
  • ASC&J delegate to Victorian Political Labour Council between 1912 and 1921. Member Central Executive Victorian PLC. Contested ASC&J Federal presidency 1922, winning narrowly against ?? Martin of NSW; precluded by ill-health from taking up position; resigned Victorian secretaryship 1923.
  • Physically incapacitated in final year. Did not receive testimonial funds collected by fellow unionists prior to his death. Funds subsequently embezzled by successor as Victorian secretary, H.F. Smith.
  • Cause of death: rheumatoid arthritis and heart failure.
  • Bronze memorial plaque to Dias unveiled at Melbourne Trades Hall Council, 1927.

H. J. Gibbney & A. G. Smith, A Biographical Register 1788-1939, vol 1 (Canberra, 1987); Gavin Souter, A Peculiar People: the Australians in Paraguay, (Sydney, 1968); Stuart Svensen, The shearers’ war; the story of the 1891 Shearer’s Strike (Brisbane, 1989); Recorder, April 2000; Labor Call, 7 Oct. 1918 & 21 Aug. 1924; Carpenters' Monthly Journal, & November 1923, September 1924 & May 1927.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Dias, John Napthali (Jack) (1861–1924)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


11 May, 1861
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


13 August, 1924 (aged 63)
Cheltenham, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death


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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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