125th Anniversary of the Great Shearers StrikePrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Sandra Brown/Diane Watson

The shearers stands and plaques were donated by the Australian Workers` Union to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Great Shearers Strike of 1891. 

The stands and plaques are memorial to the thirteen leaders of the strike who were arrested and sentenced to three years hard labour. Each stand has a plaque, with the name and etched image of each of the thirteen leaders. 

The thirteen union leaders were charged with sedition and conspiracy, taken to Rockhampton for the trial, convicted, and sentenced to three years in gaol on St Helena Island Prison. 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.

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. 


Address:Oak Street, near Railway Station , Barcaldine, 4725
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -23.552283
Long: 145.289198
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Government
Actual Event Start Date:1891
Actual Event End Date:2016


Approx. Monument Dedication Date:2016
Front Inscription

             of the

Remember Our Past 

Barcaldine, Queensland
Birthplace Of The Australian Labor Party

Protect Our Future

The GREAT                 125th ANNIVERSARY

These Memorial Shearers Stands and Plaques are donated by the Australian Workers` Union to commemorate the 125th Anniversary of the Great Shearers` Strike in 1891.
The Great Shearers` Strike saw more than 1000 men downing shears to march through the streets of Barcaldine demanding better conditions from graziers and for the 'recognition of unionism'. Lasting four months, the strike ended with 13 of its leaders arrested and sentenced to hard labour to be served at St Helena Island Prison. 

Freedom without Dishonour

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au