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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

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Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement, 1788-1975

View articles from the Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement, 1788-1975

Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement, 1788-1975

The idea of a collective biographical project of Australian Labor and labour was first mooted in print as far back as 1962. With the establishment of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History in 1961, Society co-founder Robin Gollan wrote of plans for an 'Australian Dictionary of Labour Movement Biography'.

Such projects, recording the lives of working men and women whose contribution to the history of organised labour had been either undocumented or underdocumented, were part of the zeitgeist of the time. In Britain the Dictionary of Labour Biography was inaugurated in the 1960s at the University of Hull. Though assisted by many others, the project became the major scholarly achievement of John Saville (1916-2009), the legendary socialist, economic and social historian based at Hull. In France the first of 44 volumes of The Dictionnaire Biographique du Mouvement Ouvrier Francais, edited by Jean Maitron and later Claude Pennetier, published by the Institute for Social History, Paris, appeared in 1964. Among other things the 'new social history' of the 1960s and 1970s, prioritising 'history from below', alerted scholars to the worth of a biographical method as a means of enriching understanding of working life and working lives.

The Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement 1788-1975 (BRALM) was conceived at the University of Western Sydney, Macarthur (as it was then styled) in the late 1980s. It consists of brief (300-700 word) biographical entries on 2,100 activists who made a significant but hitherto un- or under-recorded contribution to the labour movement's history at the national, state, regional and/or local scale at some point to the mid-1970s. The men and women whose lives are documented in the Register — many for the first time — deserve to be remembered for their contribution to Australian social, political, industrial and cultural development.

The intention has been to complement the nation's premier ongoing historical project, the Australian Dictionary of Biography, whose charter is broader. Very early on, an in-principle decision was made to exclude from the Register those individuals who were already the subject of a published entry in the ADB. Rather we have included cross-references to ADB entries. The aim has been to dig a little more deeply for worthy candidates, especially those who remained outside the parliamentary sphere.

The formal incorporation of the Register into the ADB and the National Centre of Biography at ANU in 2011 was both fitting and welcomed by the Register's founders, Andrew Moore and John Shields. Along the way, dozens of academics and activists contributed draft entries. The project also benefitted immensely from the tireless research and drafting assistance of Yasmin Rittau and Hilary Weatherburn. At every turn, this project has been an exercise in collective scholarship and one informed by the desire for historical redress.

The original BRALM files, consisting of 40 boxes, were deposited in the Noel Butlin Archives at the Australian National University Archives in 2013 (deposit number N195). The full record can be found at