The Depression: How did it end?

The Depression:
Exam Revision-2013
‘Cohesion and Mutual Support were far more significant during the great
depression, than division and disunity.’ To what extent do you agree? (2012
Exam Question)
 Make a comment in your introduction about how there
was great support for individuals, families and groups
during the period, but also division, disunity, mistrust and
a sense of inequality, or some statement that relates
directly to the prompt.
 Ensure that your response shows that there were more
than one side to the questions, yes, but also….
Positive responses of cohesion
 Families taking in relatives
 Institutions and government schemes (Victorian Relief
 Food kitchens
 Restaurant owners putting leftover food on top of bins
instead of in them, corner shops giving food ‘on tick’ and
allowing credit
 Sydney Meyer’s staff serving Christmas dinners voluntarily
 Charities providing blankets and food for struggling
families, Salvation Army, (Soup, Soap and Salvation)
Wesley Mission, St Vincent de Paul, Brotherhood of St
 In 1932 ‘St Mark’s Church Hall in Fitzroy fed 240 children
each day in 1932, (Sun Newspaper, June 1932) (The year
that the Depression reached it’s height)
The St Vincent de Paul society, run by layman Charles Edward Fox, was dedicated
to helping the unemployed and the needy. They reportedly made more than
16,000 house calls a year, distributing 14,000 garments, 2,300 pairs of shoes and
helping any other way they could as they went.
 ‘Several charities provided ‘night refuges’ for the
homeless. Beds were sometimes made only of chicken
wire and straw filled padding. ‘Inmates’ were also usually
provided with a meal each day, usually stewed meat,
vegetables, bread and jam, and tea. They were often
asked to leave during the day, but could book a bed for
that night. Some charities provided a weekly hot bath
and fumigation services for verminous clothing.
Individual examples of generosity
Businessmen extended
generosity to the unemployed.
McPherson Robertson funded a
bridge over the Yarra, creating
employment, and also
endowed a girls’ school
Sidney Myer provided Christmas
lunch or over 1000 unemployed
people and created a bargain
basement shop where only
Australian made good were
 Councils in suburbs such as Brighton and Kew set up
‘Adopt a Child’ schemes, sending food, clothing and
school materials to children in poorer areas
 Union groups such as The Unemployed Workers’ Union which
ran courses to teach new skills and fought evictions
 Also, they supported people facing evictions and there are
examples of groups of them surrounding the houses of
families about to be evicted
 In Richmond, Victoria, 1931, Real Estate agents were
targeted by the UWM for discrimination and had their
windows smashed in targeted and planned attacks.
 This resulted in the Hogan Govt introduced an 8 shilling rent
Co-operation in Government
 Governments, both state and federal, provided support
for the unemployed through the Susso (welfare
payments) and various work schemes such as building
The Yarra Boulevard)
 Not always well received though. From 1931-1932 the
govt made men work for rations
 Spencely argues that this was seen as a way of
‘disciplining the workers’
Political Division
 ALP split
 Sacking of Lang
 Frequency of elections
 Division and disagreement as to the best way to deal with the
Depression (conflicting ideas with plans and Susso allocations/dole
 All states had variations on Susso and Dole schemes and who
received what
 Evidence of a discriminatory attitude towards the unemployed
from government employees dispensing the dole; some were very
invasive, judgmental and/or patronizing
Rise of Radical Politics
 Rise of the radical right wing movements that were pro-monarchy
and anti-communist such as Eric Campbell’s New Guard-published
its own paper ‘The Rallying Point’
 Opposed the NSW Labor Party and saw unions as the enemy.
 The All for Australia League (100,000 members by 1932) and the
New Guard were Sydney based
 Drew their membership from middle class professionals such as
doctors and solicitors as well as clerks and small business owners
 The White Army had their own arsenal in case of a communist
Left Winged Groups
 Australian communists blamed capitalism for the Depression
 Never really inspired huge numbers of supporters but were most
vocal in the Unions, where some became leaders
 The Unemployed Workers Movement was more effective as a voice
of the unemployed. 30,000 members by 1930
 Led marches and organised demonstrations
 Effective in helping people find work, organising soup kitchens and
teaching practical skills such as carpentry and other trades
 Also organised accommodation and food depots in shantytowns
Exploitation in the workplace
 Some employers exploited workers by dropping wages and
conditions, knowing that workers could not get a job
 Stories of male bosses sexually harassing young women
 Young workers had to remain perpetually young after they
turned 16 so they could keep their job
 Some women took off their wedding rings so they were not
discriminated against for taking jobs from single women
 Evidence of a lack of safety equipment, long hours with little
overtime, bullying in the workplace
Racism/Discrimination in the
 Racist attitudes, previously directed towards nonEuropeans were seen directed to Southern and Eastern
Europeans (e.g.. Kalgoorlie riots against Italians)
 Some cases of discrimination against some new British
 Non-unionised men were targeted, e.g.. A White Russian
who had no money for Union membership, was burned
terribly by steam released on board a boat by union
members angry that he wouldn’t join the Waterside
Workers Union. Took months for him to recover
Family Instability
 Evidence of family break-ups
 Divorce figures did not rise but there is evidence of men
just ‘jumping the rattler’, abandoning families and
escaping their responsibilities as fathers and husbands
 Increases in domestic violence, drinking and gambling
 Women having to shoulder the load and both work and
do their housework, washing etc
 Evidence of children being put into homes or
For many, this was a negative time
 Evidenced in increased Strike actions such as:
 The Waterside Workers Strike from August 1918-1929
 The Timber Workers for most of 1929
 The Coal Miners from Feb 1929-1930
 Stuart Macintyre claims that ‘These groups of workers resisted
their new awards, and each one was bludgeoned into
submission after long, violent disputes’ (Macintyre, A Concise
History of Australia, (3rd Ed, 2009):177
Women workers
Then bring them alive with an anecdote, a name and a place where they lived such as Collingwood
Discuss how they had to work, their role change from wife and mother to breadwinner, wife and mother
and the consequences of this
Maybe they suffered from domestic abuse because their husband was unemployed and had lost face.
Maybe they had to resort to backstreet abortions.
What was the NATURE of their work? Pay? Conditions? Fears and challenges?
Women were economically disadvantaged with wages, and Murial heagney (prominent feminist)
argued for them and set new precidents for women in the workplace for the next few decades
Which Historians addressed this-Potts, Lowenstein, McInolty? What did they say about this group?
Did things change for the wealthy?
 For the wealthy, or even those who were able to secure
full-time work and earn a modest salary during the early
1930s, circumstances for many of them actually
 Average wages dropped but the cost of living dropped
to an even greater extent. This meant that their standards
of living actually rose, because they could afford more
than before.
The Wealthy
 In response, many of the wealthy men who had business
and financial acumen capitalised on the poverty of the less
affluent classes. The wealthy did this by purchasing the
exceptionally cheap land and homes of those who were no
longer able to make their mortgage repayments.
 For similarly low prices, they also bought businesses and
belongings from those who had been forced into
 If they were willing to take a risk on the rise of the stock
market, some people bought shares when the prices were
at all-time lows.
 Even though the benefits
of their purchases were not
immediate, if they had
enough financial resources
at their disposal to keep
their assets until the
economy improved, these
investors reaped the
financial benefits
Cohesive society
 Irrespective of wealth/class
divide, Australians came
together to enjoy films, the
races, cricket, the beach,
get togethers, board
 Phar Lap
 Body Line Cricket
 Shirley Temple films
 Ocean Liners
No change
 Page 185 Macintyre; No changes for women in the
workplace but left wing activist women like Muriel Hegenay
advocated for change to wages and conditions for women
 Vacuum of Political leadership, the budgets were eventually
balanced, but little faith in the govt
 Some people experienced no change, “hardly noticed the
 Others had a little change, “We Didn’t get as much food as
you’d like to give them …..(her children) but they seemed as
alert as ever’. (Interview with Ivy
David Potts, The Myth of the Great Depression, 211-2
Men ordered to present food relief tickets for inspection because of fraud allegations, at the dole
queues at No.7 Wharf, Circular Quay, Sydney. 11 June 1931.
 By the end of the 30’s, communists held positions of power in many
unions and women became more radical in their workplaces
 ‘The radicalization of the unions was a lasting effect of the Depression’
(Macintyre 184)
 ‘It made people more saving [sic], more understanding, and
stronger….It built character as you fought your way through it, and
taught you to put up with things.’ Interview with Ivy; David Potts, The
Myth of the Great Depression, 211-2)
 The period brought about change in the welfare system, public housing
and attitudes to the homeless/unemployed
 People were no longer sitting back and accepting what the
government proposed or sanctioned, they fought and protested for
better conditions and rights
 Too many experiences to make an opinion of whether
there was more cohesion or disunity
 Much of the information is based on interviews 40 years
after the event (Lowenstein, Potts, Cannon, McCalmon
etc.) and we must be mindful of memory distortion
 What we do have however, is government documents of
ration/Susso/Dole cards, photos, songs, newspaper
reports (Go to Trove to find examples of ads for clothing,
houses, trips on ocean liners)

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