Photograph - Maurice Blackburn
Photograph - Maurice Blackburn,
State Library of Victoria,
Maurice Blackburn, Papers, MS 11749, Box 51Contributors
Maurice Blackburn played a significant role within the ALP to ensure that the party remained opposed to Prime Minister Hughes’ policy of conscription. Without the work of Blackburn, it is possible that conscription could have been introduced without a referendum.
Maurice Blackburn, like Curtin and Hyett, had been active in the Victorian Socialist Party as well as the ALP. In 1914, Blackburn was elected to the Victorian State parliament to represent the division of Essendon, which at the time included parts of what is now Coburg, although he lost this seat in 1917.
While Blackburn took an active public role in the anti-conscription campaign, it was his activity within the Labor Party that was even more significant. Blackburn proposed, successfully, a motion to the state conference calling on Labor members of parliament to pledge themeselves against conscription. This was then done at the NSW Labor conference as well, and by the time Prime Minister Billy Hughes returned to Australia in July 1916, having decided to introduce conscription while visiting the United Kingdom, a majority of the parliamentary party had pledged themselves against the policy.
Nonetheless Hughes travelled around the country attempting to persuade each state to support conscription. After the Victorian and New South Wales state conferences, Blackburn and Senator Myles Ferricks from Queensland went to South Australia to argue the case against conscription. Although they were not allowed to speak at the meeting, their influence behind the scenes was instrumental in the Adelaide Labor Conference joining Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland in opposing conscription. With only the Western Australian and Tasmanian branches supporting him, Hughes was unable to change his party’s policy and was forced to put conscription to a referendum.
Blackburn remained a lifelong opponent of conscription. In 1934, he succeeded Frank Anstey as the member for Bourke, the federal seat covering Brunswick and parts of Coburg. When conscription for overseas service during World War Two was proposed in 1943 by the ALP government, Blackburn was the only member of parliament to vote against it. As a result of opposing the Labor government he was disendorsed, and lost his seat at the election later in the year. He died shortly afterwards in 1944.
In 1946, Blackburn’s widow Doris won the seat as an Independent Labor Member, and held it for a single term. Doris had been initially a member of Vida Goldstein’s Womens’ Political Association but grew estranged from it in 1915. Instead she put her energies into the Sisterhood for International Peace. Doris was a vigorous lifelong activist for peace, international and Indigenous Australian causes. Doris Blackburn died in 1970.
Australia and World War One
Photograph - Send-off to the Brunswick Soldiers
Photograph - Brunswick Town Hall Honour Board
Memorial Plaque - Leonard William Telford
Poster - 'Australia has Promised Britain 50,000 More Men'
Labour Activists of Brunswick and Coburg
Photograph - Frank Anstey
Photograph - John Curtin
Photograph - Frank Hyett
Photograph - Maurice Blackburn
The Trade Unions' Anti-conscription Campaign
Handbill - 'The Blood Vote'
Cartoon - 'The Charge of the Would to God Brigade'
Handbill - Slave Conspiracy
The Women's Movement During the War
Photograph - Vida Goldstein
Photograph - Adela Pankhurst
Handbill - Conscription and Woman's Loyalty
Photograph - 'Women's No Conscription Demonstration'
Bella Lavender - Brunswick Campaigner
Photograph - Bella Lavender
Cartoon - Bella Lavender
Letter - Bella Lavender to Education Department
Photograph - Labor Women's Anti-conscription Committee
Religious Perspectives on Conscription
Handbill - Conscription and Christianity
Handbill - Conscription Questions for Voters
Handbill - How Would Christ Vote?
The Catholic Church and Conscription
Photograph - Daniel Mannix
Article - Cause of the War
Article - Revolt Victims
Cartoon - Australian Workman's Burden
Brunswick and Coburg During the Campaigns
Article - No Anti-conscription Meetings in Brunswick
Handbill - Public Meeting Against Conscription
Advertisement - Recruitment Meeting
Article - Remarkably Quiet Day
The Two Referendums
Handbill - Vote Thus Against Conscription
Article - Military Service Referendum Poll
Article - Conscription. Mr Hughes in Queensland
Article - 'Bourke'
The Soldiers' Votes
Diary - Claude Ewart
Photograph - Jack and Bert Grinton
Handbill - Returned Soldiers' No Conscription League Manifesto
Photograph - Soldiers Voting
Consequences for the Campaigners
Inscription - Police Just Raided
Article - 'Failure to Enrol'
Letter - Adela Pankhurst to Sallie Walsh
Article - 'Serenading Miss Pankhurst'
Story education resources
Education Against the Odds: The Victory over Conscription in WW1 Education Resource
The Against The Odds Education Resource provides a stimulating range of activities for students undertaking the compulsory Victorian History Curriculum Level 9/10 unit Australia at war (1914 – 1945). It helps students reflect on the complexities of the conscription debate through a range of analytical, creative and research tasks.
Education Against the Odds: The Victory over Conscription in WW1 Walking Map
The Against the Odds: The Victory over Conscription in WW1 Walking Map is a map of some of the sites described in the digital story or related to individuals therein. Download the map to use it for a self-guided tour in the area.