Centenary of Shearers Strike & Labour MovementPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Diane Watson / Roger Johnson

A monument in the shape of shears in front of tree honours the men and woman of the Labour movement and commemorates the Centenary of the Shearers Strike in 1891. A Plaque between the shears has the name and faces of thirteen gaoled strike leaders.

The 1891 shearers' strike is one of Australia's earliest and most important industrial disputes.The dispute was primarily between unionised and non-unionised wool workers. It resulted in the formation of large camps of striking workers, and minor instances of sabotage and violence on both sides. The strike was poorly timed, and when the union workers ran out of food, they were forced to come to terms. The outcome is credited as being one of the factors for the formation of the Australian Labor Party and the rise to power of a pro-Labor Party faction in the Australian Socialist League.

The strike started and quickly spread. From February until May, central Queensland was on the brink of civil war. Striking shearers formed armed camps outside of towns. Thousands of armed soldiers protected non-union labour and arrested strike leaders. The unionists retaliated by raiding shearing sheds, harassing non-union labour and committing acts of sabotage, although the incidents of actual violence or arson were few.

One of the first May Day marches in the world took place during the strike on 1 May 1891 in Barcaldine. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that 1340 men took part of whom 618 were mounted on horse.

In a move intended to break the back of the strike, the union leaders were charged with conspiracy and sedition and gaoled for three years apiece on St Helena Island, with 200-pound, twelve-month good behaviour bonds upon release. A number of these leaders went on to become significant political figures: William Fothergill returned to become Chairman of Barcaldine Shire Council; William Hamilton became President of the Queensland Legislative Council and George Taylor became the Speaker of the West Australian Legislative Council.


Address:Oak Street (Capricorn Highway), Outside Railway Station, Barcaldine, 4725
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -23.552346
Long: 145.289619
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Government
Approx. Event Start Date:1891
Approx. Event End Date:1991


Approx. Monument Dedication Date:1991
Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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