The Trade Unions' Anti-conscription Campaign
Trade Unions were amongst the most organisationally powerful opponents to conscription. The Victorian Trades Hall was especially important for its national role in the campaign.
Organisation within the Trade Union movement was critical for developing opposition to conscription within the parliamentary Labor Party. At this time, the ALP was still regarded by most people as an extension of the Trade Unions. As a result, decisions of the Trade Unions’ Councils and conferences had an enormous influence on government policy. Although the Labor ministries led by Andrew Fisher and Billy Hughes were dominated by politicians determined to prosecute the war to its fullest, many ALP backbenchers, members and trade unionists had a more sceptical view of the war and especially of conscription.
The Trade Unions were also able to use their organisational capacity to lead a national campaign against conscription for overseas service. In May 1916 the All-Australia Trade Union Conference in Melbourne voted overwhelmingly to oppose any attempts to introduce conscription, and shortly afterwards the Trades Union Anti-Conscription Campaign Committee was formed. John Curtin would serve this Committee as national Secretary, and fulltime organiser. Frank Anstey and Frank Hyett were also involved.
Despite this capacity, trade unions faced a difficult environment for campaigning. Almost all of the major newspapers were in favour of conscription, the Victorian state government (like all state governments except Queensland) were pro-conscription, and the federal government instituted stringent censorship and surveillance of anti-conscriptionists. As a consequence, handbills and pamphlets were a major campaign tool for the trades unions. These were printed in bulk on cheap paper, and distributed in workplaces and local communities.
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.