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Frederick (Fred) Roels (1891–1939)

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Frederick (Fritz) (Fred) Roels (1891-1939) engine-driver, trade union official, parliamentarian and grocer 

Birth: 17 August 1891 at Camperdown, Sydney, New South Wales, and registered as Fritz, son of native-born parents Sydney Fritz Augustus Roels (1867-1944), an iron moulder, whose father had been born in the Netherlands, and native-born Emily, née Furey (1869-1903). Marriage: 1921 to native-born Alice Mary Dolan (1895-1989). They had no children. Death: 21 February 1939 at Botany, Sydney, NSW. Religion: Catholic. 

  • After his mother’s death his father, left with four young children, attempted suicide, for which he was sent to three months imprisonment in April 1908.
  • Fred was apprenticed in an engineering shop at fifteen years of age. A resident of Newcastle, for many years he was a prominent figure in the Labour movement, active in the anti-conscription campaign and was representative of the Federated Engine-drivers and Firemen’s Association on the Northern District Defence Committee during the 1917 strike.
  • Worked in a timber mill in the 1920s. Dismissed in the 1929 strike.
  • Crane driver on Sydney Harbour bridge construction. Later became a grocer.
  • Delegate to NSW Trades and Labor Council and president, 1929-1930.
  • In 1929 was a TLC delegate to Pan-Pacific Trade Union Conference, Vladivostok, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and to Red International of Labor Unions, Moscow.
  • Member of central executive of the Australian Labor Party from 1928 to 1931. Delegate to the February 1930 All-Australian Trade Union Congress in Melbourne. At the explosive ALP conference in Sydney in April that year his brother Eric Roels claimed that a secret inner group wielded power within the party and named his brother Frederick, Jock Garden, Emil Voigt, James Joseph Graves [and himself] as belonging to it.
  • Appointed to the NSW Legislative Council on 24 November 1931. Defeated in election to reconstituted council in 1933 his term as a parliamentarian ceased on 22 April 1934. In 1936, a salesman, he was again an unsuccessful candidate ALP for election to the Legislative Council.
  • Cause of death: chronic myocarditis and chronic rheumatism.

Heather Radi, Peter Spearritt & Elizabeth Hinton (eds), Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament 1901-1970 (Canberra, 1979), pp 240-41; Malcolm Henry Ellis, The red road: the story of the capture of the Lang party by Communists, instructed from Moscow (Sydney [1932]) and The Garden path (Sydney, 1949); N. B. Nairn, The ‘Big Fella’: Jack Lang and the Australian Labor Party (Melbourne, 1986), pp. 127,190, 203, 249 etc.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Roels, Frederick (Fred) (1891–1939)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Roels, Fritz

17 August, 1891
Camperdown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


21 February, 1939 (aged 47)
Botany, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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.

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