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History > General History > Chapter Five, Kalgoorlie between the Wars: a mine of racism? Part A.

History > General History

submitted by George Poulos on 28.12.2004

Chapter Five, Kalgoorlie between the Wars: a mine of racism? Part A.

Chapter Five,
Kalgoorlie between the Wars:
a mine of racism?

of, A. Markus's, Australian Race Relations 1788-1993, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards,
1994, p. 150, is available at:

as a PDF file.

If you need any convincing about the depth of anti-foreign, and hence anti-Greek racism in Australia in the pre WWII era, this chapter is worth reading.

The height of white supremacist ideology throughout the world, peaked in the 20th century, in the 1930's, as the ramifications of the Depression manifested themselves. When "times get tough" - an out-group scapegoat is sought; otherwise effected individuals and governments, have to take on some of the blame for economic hardships and mismanagement themselves.

Many Greeks and Kytherian Greeks were severely effected by anti-Southern European riots that occurred during the first 35 years of the 20th century in Australia. Some families were bankrupted by the events.

See, also Hugh Ghilchrist, Australians and Greeks: Volume II. The Middle Years. Chapter XX. The 1934 Kalgoolie Riot. pp. 354-358.

Page 355 depicts the "interior of George Kalafata's Rex Cafe, wrecked in the 1934 riots".

Anti-Southern European sentiment passed through 3 main phases during the 20th century.

1900-1935: White Australia policy and ideology was also aimed at Greeks, and Southern Europeans generally. Attitudes were altered by solidarity during WWII.

1945-1970: An inherent anti-Greek sentiment persists, but not to the same degree.

1971-2000: Assimilation achieved, largely through economic success. "Multiculturalism" embraced. In the 1990's, in Australia, Federal legislation enacted to ensure racial (and ethnic) discrimination does not occur.]


Kalgoorlie between the Wars:
a mine of racism?

The bloody foreigners were attacking Australians in their own country. Tempers flared: volunteers were called for.

Manning Clark on the 1934 Kalgoorlie riots,
History of Australia [1]


On three notable occasions, the gold mining town of Kalgoorlie was the scene of antisouthern European rioting – in 1916, 1919 and 1934. While the existing historiography of both the 1916 [2] and 1919 riots [3] has acknowledged the role of returned soldiers in these violent outbursts, the 1934 riots [4] have predominantly been explained in terms of industrial tension, with little attention directed towards the possibility of RSL involvement. Indeed, Gilchrist recently distinguished them from the earlier outbursts by claiming that there had been ‘no military element’ in the 1934 disturbances. [5] Instead, the most prevalent explanation for the explosion of racist sentiment in Kalgoorlie in 1934 has been that ‘it all started on the mines’, with racist workers demanding southern European exclusion to protect ‘British’ jobs. In order to assess these riots in context, this chapter begins by recounting the events in 1916 and 1919, before proceeding to an account of the 1934 Kalgoorlie riots. An examination of these incidents provides an important window into the rise and fall of racist ideology in the Kalgoorlie area over two decades, a perspective that cannot be achieved by treating each of the riots as individual events. In particular, attention is given to the industrial alliance between the Kalgoorlie sub-branch of the RSL and the local Chamber of Mines, appraising its role in the course of the riots and the direction of local ‘race debates’. From this vantage point, attention is shifted from the traditional paradigm of racist workers and their attempts to protect employment standards. It is argued that, although some miners undoubtedly participated in the 1934 riots, there were equally important, and hitherto ignored, signs of solidarity between Britisher miners and their southern European counterparts that should be assessed. The chapter concludes with an account of a six-week strike which took place on the mines just one year after the 1934 riots. When the riots and the strike are analysed together, race relations in Kalgoorlie can be viewed as much more fluid than has previously been assumed. It is demonstrated that such instances of workers uniting across perceived racial barriers provide an important corrective to the wider historiography of race relations in Australia.
The 1916 campaign against ‘enemy subjects’ In December 1916, inflammatory reports in the Kalgoorlie press blamed the King of Greece for the deaths of British and French soldiers at the hands of Greek troops. [6] In revenge, some Kalgoorlie residents, led by returned soldiers, damaged and looted more than twenty Greek-run businesses. As Gilchrist described, ‘the ringleaders including soldiers from a nearby training camp, accompanied by forty or fifty civilian youths, gathered near the Town Hall and, led by a soldier with a whistle, smashed the windows of three Greek shops in Cassidy Street’. [7] From this beginning, the violence escalated until every Greek-owned business had been smashed and looted. Other rioters travelled to nearby Boulder on the tram, continuing the destruction of Greek shops in the main streets. The Kalgoorlie Miner reportage gave a detailed description of the riot and the subsequent court appearances of those arrested. However, it did not once mention that the ringleaders of the violence had been returned soldiers. More than forty arrests were made and, although some charges were for the relatively serious offences of escaping from legal custody, assaulting a policeman and wilful and malicious damage, those found guilty were, most commonly, fined. Only two men charged with theft were given prison sentences because, in the Magistrate’s opinion, such a crime was much more serious than xenophobic rioting. Only the destruction of Greek-owned property could be construed, and presumably excused, as a display of patriotic passion. [8] Returned soldier involvement in the riots was also downplayed by government authorities who were anxious to avoid responsibility for compensation claims, but the Acting Premier of Western Australia, Henry Lefroy, admitted that returned soldiers had been ‘the ringleaders in almost every case of disorder of this nature’. [9] Yiannakis’ analysis of the riots suggests that the xenophobic and patriotic responses of Kalgoorlie returned soldiers were crucial to the direction of the riots. He cited one member of a deputation to the Minister for Works and Railways, who pointed out that ‘soldiers had not only taken part in the riots, but that men in khaki were seen directing the raiders and were observed throwing out goods from shops to the crowd’. [10]
This dramatic outburst represented the climax of a concerted campaign to oust ‘enemy subjects’ from Kalgoorlie, a struggle that had begun soon after the outbreak of World War One. From 1914 onwards, the Miners’ Union in Kalgoorlie [11] sent numerous appeals to the Minister for Defence, Senator Pearce, requesting the internment of all enemy subjects on the goldfields. By February 1916, all such calls had appeared to go unheeded and the Kalgoorlie and Boulder miners subsequently resolved not to work with enemy subjects. The Australian Labor Federation (ALF) supported their decision and similar resolutions were taken in other mining centres throughout Western Australia. One report suggested that the Australian miners could not bear being taunted about the recent retreat from Gallipoli. [12] James Cunningham, secretary of the Miners’ Union, was quoted as saying that: The feeling against enemy subjects is practically general throughout the whole of the members … [and] … has grown considerably during the past couple of months. Numbers of these men make no secret of their national sympathies when underground, and expressions of disloyalty have frequently been made during crib time, when the newspapers are generally read … disloyal sentiments expressed were reported by members to have been almost unbearable, more particularly for those who have relatives fighting at the front. The union realises it will be difficult to arrive at who are enemy subjects, as its members have no grievance against members of the Croatian-Slavonian Society who are working on the mines, and who have no sympathy with Austria. They do not desire that any unnecessary hardship should be inflicted upon these men, as evidence of their loyalty is forthcoming in the fact that some twenty of them have joined the Australian Expeditionary Forces. [13]
The day before the ban was due to come into effect, Miners’ Union officials met with the Chamber of Mines and the two parties unanimously agreed to make a joint representation to the government regarding the internment of enemy subjects from the mines. Representatives of the two organisations jointly signed a telegram to the Minister of Defence and promised to cooperate with each other in any subsequent investigation of individuals. [14] From 7 February 1916, when the Minister’s response was found to be unsatisfactory, the union imposed the ban. A vigilance committee was empowered to question all enemy subjects regarding their citizenship status. If those so challenged could not produce naturalisation papers, the Britisher miners would refuse to work until all unnaturalised enemy subjects had been dismissed. [15] Many of the migrant workers
and, ironically, subsequent reports reflected union approval of the attitude of the enemynationals who had shown a ‘commendable spirit’. [16] The mostly Slav workers were not offered relief payments by the union, despite the fact that many were union members.
Instead, union officials deflected responsibility for the growing financial stress suffered by the ousted workers onto the alleged laxity of the Defence Department. [17]
Subsequently, the Miner reported that many ejected workers were relying on the support
of the Slav community and that some families were ‘on the verge of starvation’. [18]
The Miners’ Union decision put the enemy nationals in an impossible position.
They were barred from the Kalgoorlie mines and, because of the restrictions imposed by
the War Precautions Act, were unable to move around freely in search of work elsewhere and were forbidden to leave the country. [19] Even the prospect of receiving internment food and board was withheld, as the government expressed a somewhat uncharacteristic unwillingness to incarcerate this group of miners unless an act of disloyalty could be proven. Such a development was unlikely, explained Captain
Corbett from the Defence Department to a mass union meeting, because all the enemy
subjects on the fields were known to his Department and were not considered a risk to security. [20] This information did not weaken the determination of the Miners’ Union and subsequently, the Westralian Worker, still under J. Hilton’s pro conscriptionist editorship, commended their resolve, stating that it was ‘highly gratifying as evidencing the patriotic feelings and common sense of the community’. [21] As the effect of the ban
on the operation of the mines became more apparent, Kalgoorlie employers tried to get
the Miners’ Union to rescind its decision. The Chamber of Mines denied ever supporting what it now called the ‘precipitate’ action of the Miners’ Union, a decision that threatened serious economic losses and the continued viability of some mines.
Likewise, the Chamber of Commerce expressed the view that the decision had been an error of judgement with serious ramifications for the war effort. To continue the ban, it argued, would turn a mistake into a crime. [22]
The mine managers accused the union of pursuing its ‘old stalking horse’, claiming that the anti-Slav campaign was part of a general crusade to remove all non- Britisher migrants from the mines. [23] The Westralian Worker unapologetically viewed the campaign in this light, expressing consternation that migrant exclusion was causing any debate. This newspaper also expressed the view that no sympathy should be wasted on the Slavs because ‘[f]rom all accounts the enemy subjects who have in the past been interned showed absolutely no gratitude for the humane treatment they received at the hands of the department.’ [24] One satirical Letter to the Editor under the pseudonym ‘Tony Dagovich’ purported to be from a hardworking Austrian who had been made unemployed by the Miners’ Union ban. His intention was to get support from the authorities until the end of the war, and then take his savings and go home. Many instances of the common racist stereotyping of migrants were present in this letter – being dishonest, living on the ‘smell of an oily rag’, not spending money in the town, not paying tax and amassing huge savings to take home. [25] However, while some individuals undoubtedly agreed that the departure of any non-Britishers was cause for satisfaction, the Miners’ Union did not challenge the presence of other ‘non enemy’ migrants on the mines, praised the enemy subjects for their cooperation and assisted the mine managers by advertising mine employment through union channels. [26] Indeed, it was the union that located a pool of available labour from Meekatharra that could have replaced the excluded workers, but the Chamber of Mines refused to employ them on principle – because the Meekatharra men were on strike at the time. [27]
Richard Hamilton, President of the Chamber of Mines, used the dispute to publicly question whether the constant drain of recruiting on the mine workforce, coupled with the Miners’ Union campaign, was in the best interests of the war effort. While he was anxious to avoid the impression that he was putting his own sectional interest before the national imperative, he maintained that Kalgoorlie miners were better left to ‘do their bit’ underground. [28] As Fischer pointed out, the mine managers promoted a simple and convenient equation – that production plus profit equalled patriotism. [29] In no way could employer support for migrant labour be viewed as evidence of a more racially egalitarian approach. The Chamber of Mines was only too willing to support the ‘principle’ of Britisher preference, until mine profits were threatened by that policy.
Equally, its generally successful portrayal of shovelling and trucking work as fit only for foreigners earning low rates of pay was an obvious boon for company balance sheets.
Indeed, while the Miners’ Union viewed enemy migrants as the main problem, its ability to wage a united battle against the mine managers was compromised.
While not siding with the mine managers, there were signs that some union members were not as solid on the question of exclusion as their officials might have wished. One observer blamed Messrs. Daw and Bradley, officials of the Miners’ Union, for pushing the question of enemy subject exclusion. Bruce McGay, a shop steward for the union, argued that the members would have ‘let the matter drop’, if not for the incitement of these two men.30 In another Letter to the Editor, ‘Britisher’, while reflecting a great deal of Empire loyalty, expressed disgust at the effects of the Miners’ Union decision. As he continued:
It is indeed hard for me to conceive that a body of Australian working men, claiming to be among the most enlightened people on earth, and whose motto is “Justice for all” can stand calmly by, trying to hide
behind the back of the Minister for Defence, while women and children are wanting bread … Perhaps the war has given some of us the “jumps”
… Don’t let it foster in us an ugly spirit of race pride and domination, nucleating in that spirit which we condemn in the Prussian mind – megalomania. [31]
Another union member wrote that he was the only man who spoke against the motion to
refuse to work with enemy subjects. He argued that many of the men were married to Australian women and were bringing up Australian children. What would be the effect of the union decision, he asked, on the future attitudes towards Australia of people so harshly treated? He felt that unionists should offer friendship to ‘any man who has to earn his living in dirty smoky holes’ and that he felt ‘ashamed to meet men who are suffering by this one-eyed policy of the union’. [32] Others had sympathy with his position.
A subscription list in support of the women and children affected by the dispute was taken along Burt Street, Boulder, from the Recreation Hotel to the Metropole. In less than thirty minutes, £22/10/- was collected. [33]
Of the two hundred enemy subjects prevented from working, the overwhelming
majority were shovellers and truckers, a result which clearly demonstrated that the
existing division of labour was based upon racist hiring practices. The Chamber of
Mines reinforced the ethnic segmentation of the workplace by arguing that to find
replacements for the dismissed workers would be difficult, as only foreigners were
‘willing’ to do this type of work. [34] Indeed, it argued, the ‘class of work … is one from which the British mine worker is peculiarly averse. It means steady, hard, physical work, which he either cannot or will not do; in many cases he refuses to attempt it: and, consequently, a foreigner gets the job.’ [35] As the mine employers saw it, they were often prevented from applying their preference for Britisher labour because:
A number of men are making a practice of applying for work, going below, doing little or nothing, accepting their discharge with cheerfulness, and the next morning making application for work at
another mine, where they repeat the same programme with a similar result, and these tactics, carried out from day to day, enable such men to obtain practically full pay without doing a day’s honest work. [36]
The Miners’ Union did send Britisher labourers to take the jobs of the foreigners, but the Chamber of Mines described the new workers as ‘both insufficient and inefficient’. Its
representatives claimed that Britisher labour was capable of removing less than half the ore that had been shifted by the expert foreigner labour and that the ‘slackness’ with which the new workers went about their work ‘amounted to a ‘lazy strike”. [37] They explicitly stated that the Britisher labour on offer was ‘found to be hopelessly incompetent as compared with the foreign’. [38] However, in a Letter to the Editor, one trucker described the appalling working conditions of shovellers and truckers and maintained that the mine managers would have no trouble getting workers if they improved the labour process. He argued that it would not cost very much to properly lay,
clean and repair lines to obviate the need for ‘a modern Samson to push a truck on
them’. He also criticised the inspection system which relied on busy contract miners to check that safe work practices were employed. Bad conditions were not the fault of the foreigners, he reasoned, because many were denied employment elsewhere and were forced to take mine labouring jobs with poor conditions. [39]
The Kalgoorlie Miner attempted to paper over the divisions regarding the
employment of enemy subjects on the mines by maintaining that a distinction had to be
made between miners of German and Austrian descent and those of the subject nations
of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In this way, the Miner could advocate ‘universal
support’ for the bigoted nationalism of the Miners’ Union while, at the same time,
offering a solution to the mine managers’ labour shortage problems. [40] The Sun
demonstrated a similar attitude but, in an attempt to deflect the attention of the Miners’ Union away from the Slav workers, it suggested that more attention should be paid to the Germans – both naturalised and unnaturalised – who lived on the goldfields. [41] When
the question of working with ‘enemy subjects’ was reviewed by the Miners’ Union at the end of March, several speakers argued that the current course of action was indefensible. Their view was not widely shared; the majority position was to continue the ban. [42]
While the ‘grassroots’ activities of the Miners’ Union and the returned soldiers
became the public face of racism in Kalgoorlie, the events of 1916 must be seen in the context of wartime xenophobia, Government attacks on hapless migrants throughout the country, and a racist media frenzy sustained by both labour movement and conservative newspapers. The Prime Minister, W. M. Hughes, had, for some time, been leading a vicious campaign against the IWW, branding their migrant members as ‘German agents’ and denouncing Wobbly internationalism as a foreign and seditious ideology. Under the auspices of the War Precautions Acts 1914-16 and its accompanying set of regulations, ‘enemy subjects’ were removed from the share listings of Australian companies and
land transfers to them were blocked. [43] Both Federal and State Governments, as
exemplars of the ‘loyal’ employer, placed restrictions on enemy nationals gaining public service employment. [44] Under the Aliens Restriction Order 1915, ‘enemy aliens’ and naturalised subjects of enemy origin were forbidden to change their names without permission. In one example of such repression, a naturalised hairdresser by the name of Baur, was fined £15 plus costs for operating under a trade name, rather than his own surname. [45] Similar measures included the banning of the sale of goods produced in enemy countries and encouraging proprietary clubs to suspend the membership of any
enemy subject – naturalised or otherwise. [46] As McKernan described the situation, the scapegoating of such migrants was an integral part of ‘manufacturing the war’ on the homefront. [47]
In Western Australia, internment of enemy nationals was carried out with extraordinary zeal and, at a local level, the Kalgoorlie Miner was not slow to whip up racial hatred against the Empire’s enemies. [48] Its editorials raised the spectre of ‘foul deeds’ perpetrated by enemy subjects, categorically stating that the ‘Teutonic nature’ could not be trusted. In one article, it cited an unidentified ‘expert’ who described
German manners as ‘beastly’ and claimed that mendacity was taught in German schools
as being clever and virtuous. Even those who had become naturalised were suspect,
claimed the Miner, arguing that ‘when the crucial hour of trial comes, the microbe of
Kaiserism which has been growing and asserting itself for centuries may outweigh all previous resolves’. [49] In response to German newspaper reports decrying the use of asphyxiating gas in warfare, the Miner leaped to the defence of the British and their allies. One editorial hypocritically argued that:
The Germans may lawfully torture and kill their enemies with … poison gas; but when the allies are forced to retaliate in kind, they are guilty of a breach of the Hague Convention. Vainglorious racial arrogance … when exalted into a creed, with a thousand material interests based on it and backed by great armies to further its fanatical teachings … becomes a
dangerous mania. [W]hen with a crazy belief in their divine mission, they
regard themselves as superior to all obligations of morality and law; when they trample upon the rights and ideals of every other people, and would make all other nations subservient to their good pleasure; then they become a pestilential danger and must be suppressed at all costs. [50]
No kettle had ever been denigrated by a blacker pot! In such a heightened atmosphere, it may have behoved the Kalgoorlie Miner’s editor to exercise some
journalistic restraint. However, this was not to be the case – Gilchrist blamed the
Kalgoorlie Miner’s impassioned editorial regarding the German sympathies of the Greek King Constantine for the ensuing torrent of racist violence against local Greek businesses. [51] Indeed, after the riots had subsided, the Miner report contained a Machiavellian disclaimer that no-one could have possibly ‘imagined for one moment that it would resolve itself into an affair of huge proportions’. [52]
Towards the end of August, the campaign against the migrants took a new turn.
Until then, the Miners’ Union had refused all entreaties from the Federal and State
Governments and from the Chamber of Mines to make a distinction between loyal and
disloyal enemy subjects. [53] When some mine managers began to re-employ Slav workers, 2,700 miners walked off the job. Predictably, once production had stopped, more serious attempts to resolve the dispute took place. [54] The Minister for Mines, R. T. Robinson, proposed that a five-member Royal Commission be established to investigate each of the workers to whom the Miners’ Union objected, in order to determine which of them were enemy aliens. The suggestion was acceptable to the Federal Government, the
Chamber of Mines and a mass meeting of unionists. Mr J. Darbyshire, a supervising
engineer on the Trans-Australian Line, was designated chairman. [55] Other men appointed to the Commission were Lloyd Bloxsome and R. Varden, representing the Chamber of Mines, alongside George Callanan and J. Cunningham, MLC, representing the Miners’ Union. During nineteen days of hearings, the Commission examined the status of 138 people, hearing nineteen witnesses in the process. In all, thirty-three men were classified as ‘enemy aliens’ and were subsequently interned. The Miners’ Union representatives
issued a minority report, stating that, in their view, only two of the men were not alien enemies. For their part, the employer representatives issued an addendum stating that, in eight cases, they did not feel that sufficient evidence had been presented to warrant the men’s exclusion from the mining industry. They felt that some witnesses had made vexatious accusations that were ‘prompted by other than disinterested patriotic
motives’. [56]
As a device to get the miners back to work, the Royal Commission was a complete success. The investigation allowed the re-employment of most of the banned workers and, at the same time, reinforced the Government’s policy regarding the persecution of ‘enemy subjects’. Kalgoorlie was to be racked by race rioting on two further occasions. However, while in each of these riots, returned soldiers demonstrated their continued commitment to an ‘ethnically-cleansed’ Kalgoorlie, the labour movement was to display a far more tractable attitude to migrant labour in the 1919 and 1934 events. Small signs of opposition to migrant exclusion were isolated in 1916, but in later riots they became official union policy.

The 1919 Kalgoorlie race riots

In 1919, there was a considerable level of street violence in Australia, as returned
soldiers expressed their dissatisfaction regarding the political and industrial situation they found at home. [57] Migrant workers who were deemed to be taking returned soldier jobs particularly angered them. In one such incident in Kalgoorlie, a 22 year old returned soldier, Thomas Northwood, was fatally stabbed in an altercation with an Italian man. A bell-ringer was sent through the streets to summon a general roll-up of returned
soldiers.58 Although Northwood and his companions had instigated the altercation,
returned servicemen led riots against southern Europeans. They organised a march of townspeople to various Italian-owned businesses in the area, which were ransacked one by one. The protesters demanded that all non-Britishers be ejected from the goldfields in order to ensure that sufficient jobs would await those returning from military service.
Single Italian men were given an ultimatum to leave the town or face ejection and, as a result, many migrants fled. [59]
These riots had industrial ramifications. While some returned soldiers had gravitated towards the newly-formed Nationalist union on the goldfields, the Federated Miners Union (FMU), most Kalgoorlie returned soldiers supported the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU). [60] The AWU, allied with the Official Labor Party, recruited returned servicemen and anti-conscriptionists alike. [61] As Murray has argued, a ‘clash of interest definitely existed’ with two key issues at the centre of the struggle. [62] Firstly, the
FMU demanded preference for returned soldiers, while the AWU sought preference for its members and recognition as the sole representative of mine labour. Secondly, the AWU leadership was prepared, albeit in a half-hearted fashion, to support the mostly migrant woodline workers who were, at this time, engaged in an industrial campaign for better wages and conditions. [63] The FMU opposed migrants having jobs, especially while
returned servicemen were unemployed. Although many miners would have experienced
little contradiction between membership of both groups, for some within the AWU, the
question of southern European labour raised competing political priorities between the poles of migrant exclusion and working class internationalism.
The RSL and the FMU had an overlapping membership. As has been demonstrated in Chapter Three, the RSL’s allegiance to a homogeneous ‘white’ society prompted repeated calls for migrant exclusion. Moreover, its headquarters in Kalgoorlie
became a focal point for anti-labour campaign coordination. Unlike some other returned service organisations and other sub-branches of the nationally-recognised RSL, where attitudes towards the labour movement were initially something of a contested issue, [64] the Kalgoorlie sub-branch was, from the start, an anti-Labor force. Its often violent actions were officially sanctioned by the police, the conservative press, the government
and the employers. When the Kalgoorlie RSL members indicated their determination to
get Italians off the mines, the Police Commissioner in Perth cryptically advocated
‘lawful compulsion’ to get the Italians to leave. [65] At an RSL meeting held to discuss the Northwood stabbing, the Resident Magistrate of Kalgoorlie, Mr Walter, sympathised with the returned soldiers’ desire to get Italians off the goldfields, but cautioned them to use ‘constitutional methods’. Whilst threatening to oust all Italian men, Kalgoorlie RSL executive members, H. Axford and W. Schwann, urged that such expulsions should be carried out by ‘peaceful means’. Members should try to avoid damaging the property of Australians, they conscientiously advised. [66] When the riot erupted, the President of the Kalgoorlie RSL was in Perth. He cabled the following message to his Secretary: ‘Wire me particulars of trouble with foreigners. Hold men in hand. Help police to trace culprit.
Use no unlawful means.’ Despite the almost immediate arrest of the man who had
stabbed Northwood, the reply sent by the Secretary suggested that the executive
endorsed the membership’s actions. The message read: ‘Returned soldiers moved all
foreigners leave Goldfields by Saturday night or be deported. Rank and file have
position in hand. Hell itself will not bluff them. Don’t worry.’ [67]
The General Secretary of the Western Australian RSL advised the Kalgoorlie
sub-branch that representations had been made to the Government to legitimise the
deportations and that the police had been told to advise the Italians to put as much
distance as possible between themselves and Kalgoorlie. He passed on assurances that special constables were only being recruited to protect private property and the wellbeing of citizens, not to ‘protect the Italians in any way’. ‘I may state’, he wrote, ‘that the Ministers and the Commissioner of Police are sympathising with us in this matter.’ [68]
Returned soldiers in Brisbane responded by sending a congratulatory telegram to their
Western Australian counterparts, complimenting the Kalgoorlie men on ‘the
workmanlike manner in which they acted’ to expel the Italians. [69]
While some miners followed the lead provided by the RSL, the AWU leadership
denounced the rioting and subsequent moves to deport Italians from the goldfields. The
Mining Division held a meeting in the aftermath of the riots and promised solidarity to all those foreigners and their families who were union members. The delegates also passed resolutions attacking the government for its failure to protect citizens and demanded measures to prevent further harassment and deportations from the fields. The
resolution put before the meeting stated:
[t]hat we enter an emphatic protest to the Government for the spineless manner in which they have acted in not providing protection for citizens of this community, and that we advise the government to withdraw immediately the instructions given for the Italians to leave the district. [70]
AWU officials promised that union ‘vigilance committees’ would be formed for the protection of unionists. They also protested against the deportation of Louis Francis,
accused of being a Communist by the RSL, and demanded that those who had forced
him to leave town should be prosecuted. [71]
Murray has argued that the AWU leadership took up the cause of the migrant
workers in order to build the union’s membership and, in the process, strengthen its case for sole representation of mine labour against that of the FMU. While she indicated that the resolutions supporting the woodline workers must have been supported by the majority of officials and delegates who voted for them, [72] there were clearly mixed feelings among those who voted. The motions were passed ‘emphatically’ while the miners reportedly ‘possessed no greater liking for the foreigners than anyone else’. [73]
The wording of an Intelligence report sent to Melbourne in the aftermath of the dispute also suggested pragmatism on the part of the AWU. It read:
The A.W.U. (Miners’ Union) had vigorously protested against the “deportation” of Louis Francis and had threatened to side with the Italians if the soldiers tried to forcibly expel them from Kalgoorlie. They
also advised the Italians to resist the pressure put on them to go away.
Their action however was dictated not so much by any regard for the welfare of the Italian as by a hatred of the returned soldier … [my emphasis] [74]
Most local newspapers consistently fanned enmity between Britisher and migrant workers – distancing themselves from support for the riot but openly
sympathising with the claims of the returned soldiers. For instance, before the riot, one newspaper exhorted the State government to scab on the woodline workers because instead of paying relief to miners thrown out of work by the dispute, it would be cheaper for the government to ‘haul the wood for nothing’. [75] After the riot, the same newspaper argued for the expulsion of the Italians. Its editor lamented that ‘[t]he fate of the community … depends on the goodwill of the Dagoes’, maintaining that ‘while the Italians remain on the goldfields they render the preservation of conditions of peace impossible’. [76]
Later that year, AWU miners struck to get non-AWU labour (specifically, ‘bogus’ unionists in the FMU) out of the mines and serious scuffles between the rival groups took place at several shaft heads. [77] Again, a bell-ringer was sent out into the
streets to advise all returned soldiers to meet at RSL headquarters. [78] In this way, the police galvanised opposition to AWU militancy, forming a force of ‘special constables’ with returned servicemen prominent in its ranks. Indeed, these police reinforcements were sworn in at the Soldiers’ Institute, not at the police station. [79] There was no doubting which group had the support of the Chamber of Mines. Its report stated:
Like a fiery cross the news of the happenings on the mines was carried through Boulder and Kalgoorlie exciting … the righteous rage of returned soldiers. Comrades … had been wounded, not on the field of battle … but in pursuit of their lawful avocations by degenerates among
their countrymen. The tocsin sounded in the streets of Kalgoorlie, calling the returned men to enrol to safeguard the interests of themselves and the community threatened by a lawless mob. [80]
Not all returned servicemen answered the conservative call. One argued that the RSL executive was ‘reactionary and unrepresentative’ and that it was ‘one of the channels through which the Chamber [of Mines] hopes to sail to a complete victory’. [81]
A Boulder meeting of returned soldiers censured the Kalgoorlie RSL executive for
‘fighting the battle of the Chamber of Mines and acting in a manner which is
detrimental to the best interests of ourselves as workers’ and passed a motion that returned soldier workers should ‘link up with the AWU’. [82] This evidence supports McQueen’s distinction between the two sub-branches. He argued that the Kalgoorlie sub-branch was more representative of, and controlled by, its extensive commercial and management constituency, whereas the Boulder sub-branch had a far higher concentration of proletarian members – ‘in other words, it was a class division’ that separated the attitudes of the two groups. [83] While the Chamber of Mines refused to grant preference to either the AWU or the FMU, it was content to encourage the strike
breakers and to portray itself as champions of employment impartiality. It claimed that members endorsed the policy of preferential hiring of Britishers, with the proviso of ‘all things being equal’. In reality, this policy expressed preference for the cheapest, most unorganised labour. Richard Hamilton, President of the Chamber of Mines, argued that AWU intolerance of the Nationalist union would drive away capital and turn Kalgoorlie into another Broken Hill. [84]
The strike ended without the main issue fully settled – the FMU continued to
exist as little more than a rump and considerable enmity between supporters of the FMU and the AWU remained a feature of the Kalgoorlie industrial landscape for many years.
The mine employers strengthened their bargaining position against the AWU by
encouraging racial division. A few days of lost production was worth little in
comparison to the opportunity to manufacture a workforce permanently divided on the basis that the foreigner was the enemy, not the employer. In this campaign, conservative RSL members became useful allies, because the migrant presence on the mines
challenged the ideals for which they believed they had fought, ‘race loyalty’ being high on their list of priorities. The anti-Labor returned soldiers could sow racial division among Kalgoorlie workers, but they did not have the social power to effectively remove foreigners from the mines. Nevertheless, their propaganda encouraged the alienation of southern Europeans from their Britisher counterparts, without preventing their
employment. While the attitude of organised workers towards migrant labour was still somewhat grudging in 1919, a distinct shift from the politics of the 1916 campaign can be discerned. No longer did organised miners deny the right of ‘foreigners’ to a job; instead, they offered a range of support mechanisms to all those who were members of the union, in an albeit selfish recognition that solidarity would offer industrial benefits.
At the very least, the dispute highlighted to AWU members that RSL policy was anathema to their industrial interests. Returned soldier scapegoating of migrants as ‘imagined’ competitors for jobs could not disguise the very real ‘scabbery’ of the FMU.
Together with the clear relationship between the RSL and the Chamber of Mines,
particularly in the recruitment of special constables, such an industrial outlook rang
warning bells for many AWU members. The AWU expelled any members who had been special constables in 1919 and, even in 1928, Labor officials were still investigating charges that certain persons had ‘served’ in this capacity. [85] As Justina Williams recalled:
With the resumption of work … there was no diminution of hostility towards the “special bastards” as the scabs were called. Their lives were made such a misery that many of them left the industry. Hatred of the Coolgardie Union was long handed down among workers on the Golden Mile. [86]

The 1934 Kalgoorlie/Boulder race riots

Fifteen years later, a third riot erupted against southern European migrants in
Kalgoorlie. During the Australia Day weekend of 1934, an inebriated Britisher miner, Edward Jordan, instigated a fight with an Italian barman, Claudio Mattaboni, outside the Home from Home Hotel where Mattaboni was employed. [87] The two men were well known to each other and the fight appeared to be Jordan’s attempt to settle a minor dispute over a cracked window in the bar. In the course of the ensuing scuffle, Jordan fell and cracked his skull on the pavement and died several hours later in hospital.
Afterwards, even his friends described Jordan as ‘a good man sober but very different with the drink in him’. [88] Justina Williams, who knew Jordan well, thought him ‘a fine type of worker … popular and a fine sportsman’. Given Williams’ commitment to antiracism, it is unlikely that she would have described him in this way if Jordan had been an habitual racist towards migrants. [89]
However, Jordan’s drinking partners, Dillon and Martin, were not prepared to let
the tragic incident rest. They spread rumours that the popular firefighter and tributer had been murdered by Mattaboni. Jordan’s funeral was attended by hundreds of ‘mourners’.
One local resident, Nancy Crisp, described her sister’s impression of the funeral
procession which accompanied Jordan’s coffin.
I’m not suggesting that there wasn’t the usual grief and sorrow amongst his own family and friends but ... Norah told us when she came home that the cars going along at the tail end of this cortege were [full of] sightseers and almost merrymakers and she was rather disgusted about it. [90]
Many of these ‘merrymakers’ went from Jordan’s funeral to a number of wakes being
held in local hotels. [91] In the evening, a crowd began to gather in Hannan Street outside several migrant-owned businesses. A youth threw a stone through a window of the Italian-owned Kalgoorlie Wine Saloon. After looting much of the hotel’s contents,
rioters burned the building to the ground. Subsequently, several other migrant-run
establishments suffered the same fate. A large group of rioters then ‘commandeered’ a tram and rode to the nearby town of Boulder, where the destruction continued.
In the morning, meetings were held at several pit-heads, where it was resolved
that the miners would not work until unnaturalised miners were ejected from their jobs.
In Boulder, side-stepping the AWU leadership which did not support the idea of striking, a street meeting was organised from the back of a lorry. One reporter described how several speakers ‘harangued’ the crowd of approximately three hundred people to
elect a committee of representatives from each of the principal mines to demand the
dismissal of all foreigners, regardless of their naturalisation status. The selection process for this committee was rather informal. Someone in the crowd would shout out their nomination. ‘Let’s have a look at him’ was the response. After some nominations were voted down, seven men were selected. [92] A photograph showing six members of the Unofficial Miners’ Committee appeared in the West Australian, listing their names as H. B. Charteris, R. Fletcher, J. J. Baker, M. Gilbert, J. Thomas and T. Brozam. [93] While very little is known of these men, we might assume from the method of their selection
that they were representative of the cross-section of views present at the meeting and
were united on the need for migrant exclusion. Their selection also suggests that they were known in the town, although not necessarily as mine workers, as the name of their committee suggested. Certainly, Bob Fletcher worked as a pipe fitter on the Ivanhoe Mine, was shop steward for the AWU and a Labor member on the Boulder Council. [94]
Likewise, Joe Thomas was described by the Premier of the day, Phillip Collier, as ‘an
out and out red ragger of the very worst type’ and was later blacklisted from the mines on Collier’s express recommendation. [95] However, J. J. Baker was a champion cyclist, sports commentator and promoter. Postal records describe him as a hawker from Kurrawang. [96] Harry Charteris appears to have lived in Kalgoorlie only during 1934, and his attire in the photograph does not suggest that of a working miner. Indeed, his medical records imply that he spent most of the interwar years in the merchant navy, while his wife, Angelina, resided in Perth. [97] At least two of the group, Joe Thomas and
Harry Charteris, were returned soldiers.
When the rioting broke out, the local branch of the CPA produced a leaflet
which argued that migrant workers were not the enemy. Members spoke at the daily miners’ meetings to argue for international solidarity. [98] Bronc Finlay recalled that members spoke in favour of turning the strike into a campaign against the mine managers for better wages for all the miners, although Ted Docker, a leading CPA member, later reported that attempts to quell the ‘misdirected’ campaign were howled
down by the crowd. [99] Later that day, a meeting was called by AWU officials and Labor parliamentarians in an attempt to end the strike. It was an open-air, rowdy affair and not restricted to union members. When explosions were heard coming from Boulder’s predominantly southern European residential area, known locally as Dingbat Flat, the rioting flared for a second time and migrant residences became the mob’s main target.
Two men were killed in the ensuing battle – Charles Stokes, a young Britisher rioter,
and Joseph Katich, a migrant miner. Many residents of the Flat were forced to hide in the surrounding bushland.
Although the rioting ceased that night, it took several days of meetings and negotiations to end the strike. The Chamber of Mines insisted that they followed a policy of Britisher preference, but would not consider removing southern Europeans from their jobs as such a move would create an untenable labour shortage. [100] They also refused to grant an AWU delegation’s request for employment preference to AWU members as a resolution to the dispute. One newspaper reported that the Chamber of Mines ‘would not relent, even when it was pointed out that, from 1898 to 1919, when preference to unionists had been the rule, there had been no serious industrial dispute on
the Golden Mile’.101 Mr J. Lynch, President of the Eastern Goldfields Tributers Association, was quoted, in the same edition, as saying that the AWU executive had let the membership fall to the point where members were forced ‘to take things from the Chamber lying down’. At a subsequent Mining Division meeting, Mr J. Cunningham, MLA, reminded the members that they had not won preference in the 1919 dispute and, in his opinion, they would not do so again. He argued that the union could not afford a dispute on the question and that the proper place for gaining employment preference was through the arbitral system. [102] By the end of the week, the miners agreed to go back
to work on the AWU officials’ assurances that an English language test would be more
carefully administered to migrant workers. [103]
In time, eighty-six people were arrested on a variety of charges in connection
with the riots – twenty-two charges of stealing, fifty-five for unlawful possession, four for vagrancy, seventeen for rioting (one absconded from bail) and four for possession of unlicensed firearms. The police were able to secure eighty-three convictions and fourteen men received gaol sentences. [104] Eight of those charged with rioting were found
guilty. The arrest records indicate that the riot participants had a wide range of
occupations and that there was a preponderance of young men among those charged. [105]
The records do not, however, support the common contention that the rioters were
predominantly miners. [106] Alongside the thirty-seven miners who were charged were
listed several women domestics, a housewife, two building contractors, an upholsterer, a billiard marker, a salesman, a clerk, a gardener, a storekeeper and a 73-year old hawker
named Juma Khan. Volet has argued that some rioters who were listed by police as
miners, could have been more accurately described as itinerant workers. He cited the example of one unemployed man whose last job had been in railway line
construction. [107] Similarly, James Bursill was described by police as a miner, but, in court, gave his occupation as ‘barman’. [108]
At the inquest into their friend’s death, Dillon and Martin were prepared to
perjure themselves to the effect that Mattaboni had thrown stones at Jordan and had hit him with a large object which, unfortunately for their credibility, they could not describe. Mattaboni’s defence lawyer, Eric Heenan, deduced that Jordan’s friends had deliberately inflamed the rioters. [109] Mattaboni was subsequently charged with the manslaughter of Jordan, but was acquitted. [110] Upon Heenan’s death in 1998, his son remarked that most people in Kalgoorlie had opposed the riots and supported his father’s defence of Mattaboni. Certainly, acting for the Italian man did not appear to harm Heenan’s electoral fortunes. Two years after Mattaboni’s trial, he was elected as a Labor member of the Western Australian Upper House and held his seat for 32 years. [111]
Heenan’s principled decision to represent Mattaboni stood in stark contrast to the
actions of Felix Cowle, solicitor and close associate of the Chamber of Mines, who was offered the case but refused to act in Mattaboni’s defence. While Mattaboni remained in gaol, cowardly Cowle wrote to his wife that, despite being joint proprietor of the Home
from Home Hotel, [112] he had ‘promptly retired from all connection with “Charlie”
[Mattaboni]. His reasoning was that ‘the crowd ... are so irresponsible that it only needs some woman to cry out “That’s Cowle’s shop; he’s appearing for the murderer; down with all Dago sympathisers” & a bur-bottle would be through my £50 plate glass window in half-a-minute’. [113] Ironically, Cowle, an outspoken conscriptionist, had acted as counsel for the Slav miners at the Alien Enemies Commission in 1916. Clearly, fulfilling the wishes of the Chamber of Mines inspired in him a greater sense of duty. [114]
What role for the RSL in 1934?
Although diffuse, snippets of evidence suggest that the RSL played a practical and
ideological role during the 1934 rioting. Further, the 1934 outburst sheds light on
Kristianson’s argument that the tactics of the League have always been subject to
internal dispute, with one section endorsing ‘respectability’ and ‘responsibility’ and the other advocating more militant, and sometimes violent, agitation.115 Indeed, the secrecy
surrounding those involved in the riots, in many senses, suited a ‘respectable’ RSL
leadership that pontificated about the violence, but surreptitiously supported the methods and objectives of the rioters.
Indeed, the 1934 Kalgoorlie race riots bore an uncanny resemblance to the Wasser riots of 1915, in which Australian soldiers had played a leading role. Just as had happened in Egypt almost twenty years earlier, rioters commandeered a tram to take them on their rampage. Hotels and businesses were ransacked and set alight; the owners’ possessions were hoisted into the streets to be carried away by looters.
Members of the Kalgoorlie Fire Brigade, of which Edward Jordan had ironically been a
member, had their fire hose severed so that they were unable to douse the flames. Gavin Casey, a reporter who witnessed the rioting, wrote evocative and detailed articles that gave a building-by-building account of how the rioters destroyed one migrant establishment after another in a systematic fashion, clearly emulating the pattern established in previous riots. He described how the ‘ringleader of the mob’, a man ‘possessed of a military whistle, and by a code which effectively led the rabble, proceeded up Hannan Street, to the blare of a cornet which had been ransacked from the ruins’. [116] A spokesperson for the Slav community confirmed the use of a whistle to orchestrate events. Mr Steve Bozzekovich said that inflammable material that had been used to ignite non-Britishers houses was conveyed ‘in motor cars, which moved systematically in response to whistles’. [117] As the International Club was set alight,
Casey reported that he heard one observer exclaim, ‘Christ! This is worse than the Battle of the Wazzir!’ [118] Rather belatedly, at the end of the night, one of the leading rioters appealed to his comrades-in-arms for restraint. ‘We have done enough’, he said, urging them not to do anything they might regret in the morning. Using words typical of RSL
terminology,119 he shouted, ‘Let us use constitutional means. Let us go in the morning, and tell the mine managers that we won’t have any but British workers on the mines and that the ____ Dings have got to go.’ The youth with a military whistle ‘blew a few blasts on the early morning air’ and the rioters moved on, but not before venting some final spleen on the Slavonic Hall flagpoles. [120]
Of the meeting that occurred later that day, the Kalgoorlie Miner described how
the rowdy crowd of about 1,000 people on Richardson Reserve was beginning to listen
to a suggestion from Labor officials that miners report for work the next day, with
another meeting to be held if foreigners were found to be working. At this point the
meeting was interrupted by the sound of explosions coming from Dingbat Flat but,
initially, there was little unified response from the crowd. When the rioters’ effort to raid the ironmongers and the police station for guns proved unsuccessful, another group ‘led
by a tall elderly man and followed by a dozen youths left hurriedly to raid the Returned Soldiers’ League hall in Boulder’. [121] From this juncture, the riots escalated, with the ‘tall
elderly man’ providing both the impetus and the practical assistance that the rioters needed. Mr E. Fraser described organised and armed Australians who appeared to be patrolling the perimeter of the residential area and remembered hearing from Joe Hocking that Hocking’s brother had been ‘on the Fimiston Road ... [and] was stopped there by armed Australians [who] told him not to go any further’. [122] It also seems likely
that the timing of the explosions on nearby Dingbat Flat to coincide with the miners’ meeting was not accidental. Whereas the conciliatory statements of the union officials and Labor parliamentarians were having an effect, the explosions within earshot of the meeting seem rather too timely.
In addition, RSL influence can be detected in the symbolism of Edward Jordan’s
funeral. Jack Coulter, a local newspaper reporter, described Jordan’s burial as ‘a full-scale fireman’s funeral, with the coffin carried on a fire engine, permanent and volunteer firemen in full uniform and George Jordan’s fire helmet on top of the Union Jack framing the casket.’ [123] Coulter’s observation that Jordan’s casket was covered with a Union Jack suggested that some who took part in the procession were prompted more by nationalist than personal sentiments. Aged 29 when he died, Jordan would have been far too young to have participated in World War One, but it is clear that the organisers of his funeral
wanted to emphasise his ‘Britishness’. For those Kalgoorlie residents who had lived in
the area in 1919, the connection between Jordan’s death at the hands of an Italian barman and the 1919 death of Thomas Northwood would have been clear. Descriptions of Jordan’s funeral suggest that it served as a political event, galvanising racist and nationalistic hatred, particularly among the many drunk and disorderly attendees.
Indeed, Gavin Casey went so far as to argue in the Sunday Times that Jordan’s funeral was the cause of continued rioting. [124]
Jordan’s burial provided a stark contrast to the one of Joseph Katich, the Yugoslav miner killed during the riots, who had reportedly left a will indicating that he
did not want a funeral with any form of religious observance and would prefer one
consistent with his ‘worker ideals’. Newspaper reports indicate that many mourners came from their hiding places in the bush to attend Katich’s funeral and that people of many nationalities, including Britishers, spoke at the ceremony. All the speeches were met with cheers. A Britisher said that Katich had been one of his best friends, that most
were very sorry about what had happened and that help would be given by the people of Boulder to rebuild homes that had been destroyed. [125] Fred Mayman, a Communist
activist, remembered the differences between Jordan and Katich’s funerals. He said that Jordan’s funeral was given ‘an enormous amount of publicity’ and attracted a huge line of cars out to the cemetery. Katich’s funeral, on the other hand, attracted no cars, but a ‘cortege of marchers’ that he said was ‘over a mile and a half long of miners’. [126] The
other funeral to result from the Kalgoorlie riots was that of Charles Stokes, the Britisher rioter who was wounded on Dingbat Flat. His funeral was described as a fairly subdued and poorly-attended affair and, as the West Australian remarked, some of the men by the
graveside would almost certainly have been fellow rioters. [127] The large crowds who had participated in the riots, purportedly to ‘avenge’ Jordan’s death, did not attend Stokes’ burial.
In the aftermath of the rioting, the Kalgoorlie Digger ran a full page article on ‘The Alien Question’. The wording made it quite clear that the leadership of the
Kalgoorlie sub-branch wanted to distance itself from the more overt violence while still lauding the ideas that underpinned it. Dissembling, the Editor argued that ‘[d]irect action is always dangerous and although it would appear that some demonstration was necessary it does not seem to have been necessary to wage war on the women and children.’ [128] The League leadership did, however, claim a ‘pioneering role’ in toughening the language test. It argued that RSL diligence had been inspired by concerns
for mine safety, the purity of Australian speech and the potential build-up of ‘foreigner colonies in the midst of our cities’. [129] Nowhere did the League leadership acknowledge that their consistent propaganda against the presence of migrant labour might have played some part in motivating and justifying the deeds of their more ‘direct actionist’
members. In addition, while never admitting that League members had played a role in the riots, the Digger offered the weak excuse that ‘the men who probably started the affair had no idea of looting [emphasis added]’. [130] Counteracting ironic suggestions from some in the community that an organised soldier contingent ‘should have assisted to quell the affair’, an aggrieved tone was adopted to make reference to the events of 1919 and the unpopularity of soldier intervention at that time. The writer argued that, although the soldiers had ‘tried to assist the public’ and had ‘saved the mines’, their
actions had not been appreciated. ‘The mine people have forgotten our work’, he whined,‘but our friends never neglect to throw up ‘specials’ on every occasion.’ [131] In short, the last thing on the RSL agenda was to quell any anti-migrant sentiment, but they were keen to be viewed as respectable nationalists, rather than disreputable rioters. Although the League had been stung by criticism of its direct action in 1919, there were still some
members who were prepared to fan anti-foreigner sentiment, just a little more covertly than before.
The West Australian also alluded to returned servicemen’s involvement in the
rioting. Its editorial expressed the view that:
[W]hen the present frenzy has died down most of the small minority of those responsible for the outrages and the looting will be sick with what they have done. Kalgoorlie miners have the reputation of being a body of men decent and reasonable beyond the average. Those who knew them on active service respected them, not alone for the fighting qualities
which they shared with other Australians, but for their essential decency and intelligence. It remains only for the sober-minded among them to assert their qualities of leadership, and put the hot-heads under the control of public opinion. [132]
Again, this line of argument was reminiscent of the attitude taken by many mainstream editorials in the aftermath of World War One when digger rebelliousness was more widespread. Returned servicemen were excused as impetuous, slightly mischievous, but fundamentally honourable, men who could be led astray by ‘outsiders’ and ‘troublemakers’. [133] In 1934, the evidence clearly suggests the opposite – that the older RSL members provided both political and covert leadership to the mostly younger rioters. These impressions were backed up by my recent dealings with the octogenarian Secretary of the Kalgoorlie RSL, George ‘Rip’ Heyhow. During a research trip in 1998, I asked him for details of the sub-branch’s activities during the 1930s. Using his sturdy frame to block my view of the filing cabinet contents, Mr Heyhow handed me copies of the 1933 and 1935 editions of the Kalgoorlie Digger but would not part with the 1934 editions, firmly stating that there was nothing of importance in them. [134] He was similarly reticent to let me view volumes of the sub-branch’s minutes, saying that I would find this
unique series, dating back to the 1920s, equally uninteresting. Upon returning to
Kalgoorlie in 1999, I asked again for access to the RSL minutes, only to be told by Mr Heyhow that they had ‘disappeared’. At that time, George Heyhow was also president of the Eastern Goldfields Historical Society. More recently, Mr Heyhow appeared on the ABC’s Dimensions programme, as the narrator of an item about the 1934 riots. As a young man of twenty, he was resident in Kalgoorlie in 1934 and was able to give an ‘eyewitness’ account of the period. Interestingly, almost seventy years after the event, he
sympathetically reiterated the justifications made by the rioters for their actions. He said:
There were a lot of foreigners in the town – mainly southern Europeans,
Italians, Yugoslavs – and they were a very well-respected group of people. But something was going wrong … they were getting far better money on the mines than what the average Australian underground miner was getting – and they were very flashily dressed and some of the young
foreign element were starting to get pretty cheeky. The women would have to step off the footpath and walk around them when they were coming up the street. [135]

[Continued.... next entry]

Bibilographic references 1-135, includ

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