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Joseph Jean (Joe) Fabre (1858–1936)

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Joseph Jean Jules (Joe) Fabre (1858-1936) clerk, trade union official, Communist 

Birth: 1858 in Paris, France, son of Jean Fabre, merchant, and Amelia, née Delrose. Marriages: (1) 10 May 1881 at the Registry of Marriages, Melbourne, Victoria, to Jessie Ellen Greening (1862-1898). (2) 17 July 1901 at Registrar’s office, South Melbourne, Victoria, to Sydney-born Nellie Tournay (1881-1948). They had three daughters and one son. Death: 1 January 1936 in hospital at Perth, Western Australia. Religion: buried in undenominational cemetery, Karrakatta, Western Australia. 

  • Claimed his father had fought with Communards who established Paris Commune in 1871, in response to which the French government sent 4000 dissidents to a penal settlement at New Caledonia.
  • After spending some time in London he arrived in Australia about 1876, and spent 27 years in eastern colonies. Was a clerk, living at South Yarra, Melbourne, in 1881. In 1890 he was employed by a caterer in Sydney, New South Wales.
  • To Western Australia about 1903. Secretary and representative of several unions, including the Metropolitan Timber Merchants' Employees’ Union and the Hairdressers’ Employees’ Union. Well-known as an Arbitration court advocate. Was instrumental in securing the original awards for hotel and restaurant employees and for barmen, and “also interested in the award conditions of dairymen and butchers”.
  • Labor candidate for the State seat of East Perth in October 1905, and contested Labor preselection for the Federal Senate in May 1909 and the State seat of Perth in July 1911. Vice president of the Eight Hours Demonstration committee in 1911.
  • Convicted of stealing union funds in August 1912.
  • Left WA briefly, but had returned by Christmas and was again secretary of the Dairymen Employees’ Union. Though accused of parting from the Labor Movement over conscription during World War I, he asserted he was still “a Socialist, and often [wore] a red tie”. By 1919 he was secretary of the National Labor Party.
  • Became an early member of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in WA.
  • Was in Sydney, New South Wales, during 1929 timber strike when he allegedly scabbed on fellow workers. Indiscretion known to CPA in WA but was admitted to party as ‘he was fighting to redeem his crimes against the working class’. Especially prominent in Kalgoorlie and was held in high esteem by local radicals/CPA members.
  • 1935 expelled from CPA after writing ‘slanderous letter’ to the WA District Committee and being ‘openly factionalist against the Party on the (Fremantle) waterfront’ and spreading ‘malicious rumours’. Justice of this charge-arising from CPA not endorsing Tom Collins’ candidature as secretary of Fremantle Lumpers’ Union-unclear. May have been ‘periodic purge’ by Mountjoy against emerging Trotskyist faction.
  • Member of the Bohemian Lodge, Orient No. 5, Royal Ancient Order of Buffalos. Later Grand Primo of the Grand Lodge RAOB, GSBA.
  • One tribute noted that he was born “with high oratorical gifts, with impressive gesture and in his prime, a resonant voice”. However, his passionate speeches were marred by faulty accentuation. He never mastered the English accent”.
  • Cause of death: arteriosclerosis and broncho pneumonia.

Justina Williams The First Furrough (Perth, 1976); The Red Star (Perth), 5, 12 July 1935; information from S. Gregson, 2003.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Fabre, Joseph Jean (Joe) (1858–1936)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012