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David Skene Fraser (1887–1959)

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David Skene Fraser (1887-1959) tailor and trade union official 

Birth: 8 July 1887 at Montrose, Forfarshire, Scotland, son of Simon Fraser (1850-1907?), labourer, and his wife Jane (Jean), née Skene (1848-1919). Marriage: 18 January 1916 at Yarra Street Methodist church, Geelong, Victoria, to Ida Boddiner Jobling (1892-1957). They had one son and one daughter. Death: 11 April 1959 in hospital at Brisbane, Queensland. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • He was educated at Montrose Academy and claimed to have studied economics under Professor Heaton. In Scotland was apprenticed for five years to R. U. Sherritt. Served two years as a volunteer with the Blackwatch Territorials. Arrived in Melbourne in 1912, worked at tailoring and moved to Port Adelaide, SA, a few years later.
  • Was a tailor’s cutter living at Semaphor when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 31 December 1917. Embarked for Europe in March 1918. After a bout of influenza served with the 48th Battalion in France. In 1919 was granted paid leave to attend J. Williamson’s Tailors and Cutters Academy at Gerard Street, London, for two months. Returning to Australia in September 1919 he was discharged a month later.
  • Joined the Australian Labor Party in the 1920s. Was president of Westbourne Park and Cumberland local electorate committee in February 1930. Labor candidate for the Federal seat of Angas in December 1931, State seat of Murray in April 1933, Federal seat of Boothby in September 1934 and the State seat of Goodwood in March 1938. Contested Labor preselection for Federal seats of Angas in 1931 and Hindmarsh in 1946.
  • Became organiser SA branch of the Clothing & Allied Trades' Union in 1942; secretary from 1947 to 1952. Also a trustee of the federal council of the union.
  • Initially advocated "Rehabilitation Schemes" for war-time female clothing factory workers and criticised attitude of Australian Council of Trade Unions to female workers but by 1946 was expressing concern at married women “holding positions to the detriment of males”.
  • At 1947 ACTU federal council successfully moved motion on behalf of SA branch condemning both Communist and grouper activity in union.
  • 1952 elected unopposed as federal secretary of the Clothing & Allied Trades' Union, being the first representative from a small branch to hold that position. Obliged to “play politics'” to maintain control. Modified earlier anti-grouper stance. Moved to Melbourne. In 1953 countered allegations of maladministration of Queensland Branch by anti-Communist regime led by Bill Sparks by launching 'tame' inquiry.
  • In 1955 aligned with NSW Grouper leader Jack Kenna. 1956 secretly organised opposition to anti-Grouper Don MacSween's candidature for position of Victorian Branch secretary. In 1957 was defeated by Jack Neal for position of federal secretary.
  • Sometime vice president of the Colonel Light Gardens sub-branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League.
  • Cause of death: bronchopneumonia, arteriosclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Son Sergeant Lindsay Hubert Skene Fraser (1921-1942) served with the Royal Australian Air Force as a wireless airgunner and was killed in action over Koepang, Timor, on 25 October 1942.

Bradon Ellem, In women’s hands? A history of clothing trades unionism in Australia (Sydney 1989).

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Fraser, David Skene (1887–1959)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


8 July, 1887
Montrose, Forfarshire, Scotland


11 April, 1959 (aged 71)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death


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