About the Author
Rhonda Godfrey Gibson was born in Melbourne. Her parents
moved south from Bourke, NSW in 1942 when Darwin was bombed during World War
Two. Her father, Martin W. Godfrey, was a horseman and bushman; he was also an
avid reader and storyteller. Even with five children, he made time to tell
stories of Outback Australia. He also followed Australian politics closely.
Rhonda married Robert Gibson in 1966. Identical twins Dan
and Ben were born in Ballarat in 1974. Robert had postings from Ballarat to
Britain. They were ex-pats in Hong Kong in 1996/97 when Hong Kong returned to
Chinese rule, experiencing the fears of the local people. Whilst there, she
wrote articles for the AWAre Magazine, a monthly magazine for the
American Women’s Association.
At the Sydney 2000 Olympics she worked in the Main Press
Centre and wrote several pieces. Was it a Dream was published in the book
Living is Giving by Laurie Smith. Her first book Alf Martin Godfrey
was published by Zeus Publications in 2006, (ISBN 1-9211-1859-8) under
Her grandfather’s story was set in the early days of
Australian colonial history as workers fought for their rights in 1891 & 1894,
and Unions formed, leading to the formation of the Australian Labor Party.
This book about Martin W. Godfrey is book two of the
Godfrey trilogy tracking Australia’s history from Federation to
I dedicate this book to my husband of 53
Robert Mitchell Gibson,
who showed me the world
to my twin sons,
Daniel and Benjamin Gibson,
intelligent & loyal.
So privileged to have such a family.
Martin W. Godfrey - MD - my dad
A reserved and respectful man, a person easily admired. He
was honest, reliable, and trustworthy to the extreme. He treated everyone with
the utmost respect, no matter who they were, or their walk of life. He protected
his children like a lion her cubs whilst insisting they learnt right from wrong,
good from bad, and the need to fight for justice. He proved one need not be
wealthy to lead a privileged life. To have known this man your life is enriched
with strength and character. No better a father could a girl ask for. We knew
love without the spoken word.
Jessie Godfrey (nee Teerman) – my mum
The rock with the hearty laugh who born five children.
Whose eyes lit up at the sound of her children’s voices.
She gave her soul and asked for nothing in return.
There is peace in a garden where Jessie spent many hours.
She worked at Astor Music Records in South Melbourne.
Robert Gibson – my Scottish husband of 53 years
Who showed me the world.
Dan and Ben
Our twin sons, intelligent and loyal.
Jake, Amber, Amy, Zachary, Henry and Corinne –
new and treasured members of our Godfrey/Gibson family.
Wendy, Heather and Rose –
my Godfrey sisters, gone but not forgotten.
Henry Lawson, poet for The Bulletin newspaper
Banjo Paterson, poet for The Bulletin newspaper
Francis H Brown, poet, Bourke, NSW – Songs of the Plains
Alan Tucker – The Bombing of Darwin
Janet McAllen – Struggletown - Richmond, Victoria
Jeffrey Turnbull – Once there was Jordanville
Michael Paterson – A Brief History of the House of Windsor
Les Godfrey – poet and proof reader
Aspiring authors, in my own personal opinion and
observation, are generally earnest, creative, anxious and sincere personalities
who feel that they have a story to tell, whether it’s fiction, fact, comedy,
horror or any genre.
Storytellers of the far distant past would, of
course, rely on personal experience and imagination, and these stories without
written word would be handed down to further generations who would then perhaps
translate them and record them into their newly created understandable and
In my quest to continue to contribute to the
storytellers of the past and present I do hope that readers of my previously
published philosophical fiction novel Paradise Mislaid enjoyed it.
On embarking upon this series of short stories I can
assure you that all of them contain an element of truth and personal experience.
Anyone recognising situations or characters portrayed
will kindly regard them as fictional, coincidental, and sheer imagination.
Read a sample:
Australia is Born 1901
The winds of change had blown across this sunburnt
country when, on 1st January 1901, with great celebration, the
colonies federated and the Commonwealth of Australia was born. Federation was
reignited when Henry Parkes, Premier of New South Wales, gave his Tenterfield
Oration in 1889. He promoted One People, One Destiny
but one of the key reasons he saw was to achieve a united defence force to
protect Australia from attack from Germany, France and Russia who already had
interests in parts of the Pacific. Japan and China also had large populations
and great military might. Another issue was trade; the railways between Sydney
and Melbourne had different gauges and passengers and goods had to go through
Customs as they passed over the border. Henry Parkes hoped to be the first Prime
Minister of Australia but died in 1896, and never saw Federation evolve.
The Common Man believed One People, One Destiny
meant every Australian – black or white – would get a fair go.
They would get fair wages and working conditions, and
have a voice in the future development of their country. That justice and
arbitration would be available equally to the worker and the wealthy. That
government would no longer act unconstitutionally partisan.
Alf Martin Godfrey – my father – had taken the train
from Bourke to Sydney to watch the historical signing in Centennial Park during
the Federation celebrations. He was excited when he talked of the 250,000 people
in the park that day, for he had never seen that many people in his entire life.
In the outer circle, as far as the eye could see, were rows and rows of ordinary
people who had come with their dream of One People, One Destiny, he said. He
painted a vivid picture of dignitaries in top hats, troops of many nations,
battalions of Australian and imperial forces with their gold braid, silver
helmets and loud brass bands. Fittingly he remarked that the parade was lead by
a contingent of shearers. Proud he was to see the shearers lead the parade, as
this country had developed and grown on the wool off the sheep’s back.
He travelled to see the historical signing as he held
high hope for Henry Parkes’s vision of One People, One Destiny, for he had been
involved in the shearers’ strikes at Barcaldine in 1891, and again in the
violent strikes of 1894 where pastoralists were motivated to cut rates for
workers because of the falling wool prices in London. Pay rates were so low that
a man was unable to support a family, and working conditions had been atrocious.
Unions had formed but were ultimately defeated. With the federation of the
colonies, the unions also federated to become the Australian Labor Party. One
People, One Destiny indicated that times were changing, but was it just
Queen Victoria reigned for 63 years, and signed the
proclamation, giving her assent for the Commonwealth of Australia. However, the
new nation remained an integral part of the British Empire. The British Empire
was at the height of its power and Victoria had ruled over 450 million people,
one quarter of the world’s population, including one quarter of the world’s land
mass. The Victorian era was a time of immense industrial, political, trade,
scientific and military progress for Great Britain.
In 1840, Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert,
from the German Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotta. They had nine children. Her
husband died from typhoid in 1861, aged 42. So devastated by his death was
Victoria, she remained in black mourning clothes for the next 40 years. Despite
being matriarch to nearly a quarter of the world’s population, Queen Victoria
was against women’s rights. She died soon after Federation on 21st
January; many said she held on to see this historic event. Her eldest son,
Edward VII, became King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and
Emperor of India on 22nd January, and this made him our King too. His
coronation followed on 9th August.
Lord Hopetoun, born in England, was appointed as
first Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. Queen Victoria had made
him Knight of the Thistle. The Governor-General took the Oaths of Office at the
inauguration ceremony on 1st January then swore in Edmund Barton’s
ministry. Mid-1902, Lord Hopetoun’s time as Governor-General ended after a
dispute over his salary. He was paid £10,000 a year, but requested a further
£8000 a year for expenses to conduct vice-regal duties. No provisions were made
for this in Australia and his request was rejected. He resigned, having applied
to the Colonial Office to be recalled from the position.
There was no basic wage for the worker in Lord
Hopetoun’s time, but in 1908 the Harvester basic wage was introduced at 42
shillings for a six-day working week. This was seen to allow for a man, wife and
three children to live in frugal comfort; a stark contrast to Lord Hopetoun’s
way of life.
Lord Tennyson, who requested a one-year term,
replaced Lord Hopetoun. Tennyson had a flair for writing and was the author of
the children’s book Jack in the Beanstalk.
Edmund Barton, a barrister, became Australia’s first
Prime Minister after what was referred to as the Hopetoun Blunder. Lord
Hopetoun, poorly advised, had invited the New South Wales Premier, William Lyne,
to form the first Australian ministry. This decision was defensible in terms of
protocol as Lyne had strongly opposed Federation. In Australia it had been
assumed that Edmund Barton, as key leader of the Federation movement and drafter
of the Constitution, would be offered the post. Alfred Deakin and other
prominent politicians told Lord Hopetoun they would not serve under Lyne. The
main task of Edmund Barton’s ministry was to conduct the first federal election.
Barton later resigned from parliament to become one of the founding justices of
the High Court of Australia.
At Federation, births had outstripped immigration,
and the population had reached three and a half million people. This count did
not include the Aboriginal natives. The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution
Act 1900 (UK) (Australian Constitution) came into force in 1901. It gave the
Commonwealth power to make laws with respect to the people of any race, other
than the Aboriginal race in any state, for whom it was deemed necessary to make
The 1901 elections were split by date, and on 29th
March New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania voted. The
following day South Australia and Queensland voted to elect the inaugural
members for federal parliament. Voting was in accordance of each state’s
specific electoral laws. South Australia and Western Australia were the only
states where women were enfranchised, so in other states women could not vote.
Tasmania had a property qualification, but in other states all males over 21
could vote. Voting was voluntary throughout Australia and candidates were
elected by a first-past-the-post voting system.
The new Federal Parliamentary Labor Party was formed
and the union branches of the colonies united under the federal structure.
Labor’s Constitution stated: The Australian Labor Party is a democratic
socialist party. At the first election Labor, under Chris Watson, won nearly 16%
of the vote with 14 seats. Edmund Barton had contested with his Protectionists
Party and won around 37% of the vote and 31
seats in the House of Representatives. No party had won a majority, but Labor
supported Barton’s Protectionist Party against the Free Trade Party, thus
holding the balance of power. Labor would become the voice of the common people.
My father was a union member, and said that
Federation Day was one of his proudest as it appeared the battle for workers’
rights finally had a voice. He had crossed between the classes when he met
pastoralist Henry Green, although Henry’s wife, Elizabeth, was not accepting of
him. Elizabeth was from inherited wealth, from a British family who had fought
in the War of the Roses, and although Australia did not have a class system as
was seen in England, Elizabeth strode around with the graces of her upper class.
Henry had no time for the upper class pomp and ceremony, but respected anyone
who proved their worth and knowledge. Elizabeth described my father as a man
with a few head of cattle, no class, and not even Catholic. My father had a
history of fighting for justice at a time when justice was for the wealthy,
educated and political. He managed to rise to respectability when he owned 100
head of cattle. From the Tree of Knowledge at Barcaldine, to
Raelands at Coonamble, he learnt what drives both sides and it
was obvious to him that the working man had a constant battle to achieve fair
conditions in his own country.
The first sitting of the federal parliament was on 8th
May in the grand Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne. The Duke of York was there
with a message from the new king, Edward VII. He read aloud: “My thoughts are
with you on today’s important ceremony. Most fervently do I wish Australia
prosperity and happiness.” Inside the Exhibition Buildings there was not an inch
of standing room with 12,000 invited guests, mostly gentlemen in top hats, and a
few ladies in splendid gowns. Cheers rang out when it was announced:
“I now declare the Commonwealth of Australia opened.” The
Duchess of York pressed a button inside the building, and the Union Jack was
raised outside where thousands of people in the street watched, and waited for
the royal parade. It would be September before a national flag was flown
comprising the Southern Cross and the Union Jack.
The Barton Government’s first piece of legislation
was the Immigration Restriction Act – The White Australia Policy.
For a man born in Australia, whose entire adult life had been
spent in the Outback working with the Aborigine, my father thought the White
Australia Policy made no sense when the natives born in this country were black.
He had worked amongst them, and had great respect for their ability in the bush.
They were good horsemen, and had greater tracking skills than any white man.
Australia was one of the few countries which had race as a dominant political
ideology. The British Government in London was not pleased with this legislation
which discriminated against certain subjects of its empire, but did not disallow
it. The Indian Empire League had protested in writing, stating this policy made
its distinctions on the basis of nationality and race alone. The Indian Merchant
Class demanded a boycott of Australian imports, and Japan, who had a treaty with
Britain, was outraged.
The discovery of gold in Australia had led to an
influx of immigrants from around the world. Forty thousand Chinese men and 9000
Cantonese women had arrived, seeking prosperity. Competition in the goldfields
had led to violence. Prime Minister Barton stated: “The doctrine
of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the
Englishman and the Chinaman.” In Queensland the growth in the
sugar industry had seen thousands of Kanakas brought into Australia as
indentured workers, and cheaply employed. So began the protests against foreign
labour. The arguments were that the Chinese and Asians took jobs away from white
men, worked for sub-standard wages, and lowered working conditions. So the new
White Australia Policy forced foreign workers to leave the country or be
The states followed soon after with the Aboriginal
Protection Act, which made the Chief Protector legal guardian of every
full-blooded Aboriginal and half-caste child under the age of 16. The round-up
of black children began, and the effort to wipe out this race had started.
Australia’s first war was the Boer War in
South Africa. At Federation it was all but over, except the Boers would not give
in and took to the hills, adopting guerrilla tactics. The Australian contingent
of 16,000 men had been fighting for four years in the Second Boer War for the
“Mother Country”. Tensions ran high between the shared British colonies and
independent republics of Dutch-Afrikaner settlers known as Boers. The discovery
of massive deposits of gold and diamonds intensified the rivalry; it was no
longer a struggle for farming land. The Boers attacked in order to forestall
what they saw as an impending British conquest.
The British had difficulty in finding troops, and
sent out the call to the colonies for able-bodied young men to defend her
honour. Prime Minister Barton complied and 10,000 men sailed to South Africa.
Sixteen thousand in total fought there, the largest number from any Commonwealth
country. More than 600 died, half in action and the rest as a result of disease.
The British were not equipped to fight a guerrilla war on horseback and over
great distances, so Australian bushmen became prized fighters in this ugly war.
Savagery between combatants escalated. British supreme commander, Lord
Kitchener, recruited Australians to take the war to the Boers. He formed a
special British unit – the Bushveldt Carbineers. This meant our soldiers were no
longer fighting as Australian soldiers, but were imperial volunteers. Lord
Kitchener had given specific orders to the Bushveldt Carbineers to “take no
prisoners”. Captains Taylor and Hunt confirmed this order; Taylor was
Kitchener’s intelligence officer. When a Berlin Bible Society missionary named
Hesse was found shot dead, a white flag attached to his buggy, Kitchener came
under pressure from Queen Victoria to do something about the killing. Her
grandson, German Kaiser Wilhelm, had complained on behalf of the Berlin Bible
Society. To convince Germany and the Boers of Britain’s fairness, and to
expedite the peace process, someone had to be charged!
Two Australian bushmen, Morant and Handcock, were
used as scapegoats to get the British Empire out of its dirty water. Handcock
had admitted killing eight Boers whilst following orders under Rule 303 – a
reference to the .303 rifles used by the British forces. He denied killing the
German missionary, Hesse. Both were court-martialled for shooting unarmed
prisoners and civilians. Their punishment – death before a firing squad.
Major James Francis Thomas was a lawyer from
Tenterfield, NSW. He had been awarded the Queen’s Medal for his bravery at
Elands River. Ironically, he was plucked at short notice by British authorities
and found himself before the court martial of Morant, Handcock, and a third
soldier, Witton. To the British, this prosecution was a foregone conclusion.
Thomas was considered no match for a well-drilled, experienced British
prosecution team. But the British were rattled when, at short notice, Thomas
argued the Boer War was characterised by atrocities, and that other auxiliary
units acting under orders from a Kitchener underling, Hubert Hamilton, also
followed the same and deliberate policy of shooting prisoners.
Thomas unsuccessfully defended Morant and Handcock,
who were told they would be shot at dawn the following day. Thomas had tried to
halt the proceedings, but was advised by Colonel Kelly that the King had
confirmed the orders and there was no hope of a reprieve. Kitchener was
conveniently away from Pretoria at the time and not available to give evidence,
but his second-in-command, Colonel Hamilton, denied the existence of any such
unwritten orders. Hamilton and Kitchener were freemasons, and the brotherhood
would ensure their silence. At 06.00 hours the two Australian bushmen, Morant
and Handcock, were led out of the fort at Pretoria and were executed by a firing
squad from the queen’s own Cameron Highlanders. Advocates insisted the courts
martial had acted with deadly purpose and swiftness, and were legally flawed.
The Australian Government learned of these executions
the same way as Moran’s wife, from the newspaper in late March. The Australian
Government demanded an explanation from Kitchener, who on 5th April
sent a letter to the Governor-General which was published completely in the
Australian press stating their guilt.
In reply to your telegram, Morant, Handcock and
Witton were charges with 20 separate murders, including one of a German
missionary who had witnessed other murders. Twelve of these murders were proved.
From the evidence, it appears that Morant was the originator of these crimes,
which Handcock carried out in a cold-blooded manner. The murders were committed
in the wildest part of Transvaal, known as Spelonken, about eight miles north of
Pretoria, on four separate dates. Lieutenant Witton was also convicted but I
commuted the sentence to penal servitude for life in consideration of his having
been under the inﬂuence of Morant and Handcock. The proceedings have been sent
back to England.
The British Government announced in the House of
Commons that the court-martial proceedings would not be made public. The
official records of the court-martial vanished following the trial, and their
location remained a mystery.
George Witton’s death sentence was commuted to life
in prison. He was transported to naval detention quarters in England. One
hundred thousand Australian people signed a petition demanding his release; so
great was the public disgust at the executions. He was released after serving 28
months, but was not pardoned. Lawyer, Major James Thomas, returned to Australia
and assisted Witton with a copy of his trial notes for the preparation of his
book Scapegoats of the Empire, thus raising
awareness for Australians to beware of the enemy within. My father supported the
petition and spoke openly of his disgust at the British rule. Australian bushmen
should not have been sent to ﬁght for the Empire in a war that was not ours, a
war not fought over our land, but for gold and diamonds. Diamonds which would
never sparkle on our shores. My father was not of convict heritage, but felt
strongly that all Australians were tagged by the British as convicts, and our
worth was not valued the same as theirs.
By 1902, white adult women over the age of 21 –
married or single – were given the federal vote and the right to stand for
office when the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 was passed. The Act, however,
specifically excluded Aborigines, Asians, Africans, criminals and the insane. It
did not give women the right to vote in state elections.
Women’s suffrage is explicitly stated as a right
under the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against
women. The Australian Women’s Suffrage Society aimed to obtain the same rights
for women as were possessed by male voters. The Society argued for equal
justice, equal privileges in marriage and divorce, rights to property, and the
custody of children in divorce.
The Women’s Temperance Union sought social reforms,
which included establishing equal moral standards for both sexes. In Victoria
30,000 signatures were presented to parliament by various suffrage societies.
What was unusual was that women were uniting across class and political lines.
Ada Evans was the first woman to qualify in Law in Australia; she graduated from
Sydney University but was not allowed to practice. The women’s Political
Association protested against the government not allowing married women to apply
for a position of Director, School of Domestic Economy.
Politicians soon realised the advantages of securing
the female vote for a woman independently able to earn her own keep, and able to
do so on a wage of about 60% of the equivalent male wage. Although they believed
that a woman’s place was in the home, she should be able to influence laws which
impacted upon that home. Some campaigners felt that men and women should be
equal in every way and that there was no such thing as a woman’s natural role.
Some campaigners felt that all adults were entitled to vote, whether rich or
poor, male or female, and regardless of race. Others saw women’s suffrage as a
way of cancelling out the votes of lower-class or non-white men. Vida Goldstein
was the first Australian woman to nominate and stand for parliament.
The Dawn, a new women’s journal
for the household wrote:
The sun rose on the morning of the sixteenth upon the
greatest day that ever dawned for women in Australia for, apart from the
pleasure of exercising the just privilege so long denied her, that of taking an
active and direct part in the selection of lawmakers, she had also the blessed
satisfaction of being as she is, not through the glasses of those interested in
A royal commission was held in 1903 to address the
decline of the Australian birth rate and the mortality of infants. Childbearing
was seen as a national duty, not a private affair, but a major political issue.
The royal commission consisted of senior public servants, politicians, doctors
and businessmen. There were no women. The witnesses before the commission were
also men, with one exception. Their final report observed:
The reason invariably given by people for restricting
procreation is that they cannot conveniently afford to rear more than a certain
number of children. This was not a real reason, they said. Expert witnesses
referred to an unwillingness to physical discomfort, the strain and worry
associated with childbearing and childrearing, and a love of luxury and social
pleasures, which is increasing. These elements added up to selﬁshness, by which
they meant, women’s selfishness!
The royal commission warned about the dire
consequences to health of contraception for women.
The nervous system is deranged; frequent distress of
mind and body are caused; the general health is often impaired, and sometimes
ruined; and inﬂammatory diseases are set up, which disable the reproductive
organs. Abortion causes illness, sterility and death.
The commission also warned against the moral
consequences of birth control. For example, it quoted the Archbishop of Sydney,
who commented that birth control lowers the whole view of what marriage is for;
it turns the marriage into a mere sexual compact. It also warned that birth
control jeopardised Anglo-Saxon sovereignty in Australia and imperial prospects
in the nearby region. Men overwhelmingly conducted the public debate about the
future of family at the turn of the century. English men!
There were at this time, 120 hospitals in New South
Wales. The government managed only one. Most had been set up by societies, run
by a board of directors, appointed or elected by subscribers. Hospitals were
usually free, with visiting doctors treating the poor. Charges were made for
private patients. In the Outback, when the shearers were being paid, they were
asked to contribute to the hospital fund. The shearers usually donated their
small change. Accolades for these donations inevitably went to the station, not
to the workers. But still they gave.
Drought continued to be a major problem for
Australia. Flooding often followed a drought, but we had no way of harnessing
the water. Rain-making experiments in June and July had failed, but in August
good rain began falling. Although rain brought relief to many parts of inland
Australia, the losses of the seven dry years were felt for a long time.
Thousands of carcasses of sheep, cattle, kangaroo and emu littered the parched
countryside. The smell of death was everywhere, and every patch of grass had
disappeared. There were 106 million sheep and 12 million cattle prior to the
drought, but those numbers had halved. The human cost was even greater, as many
farmers had walked off their properties, and some had been driven to suicide.
Two busy years had slipped by when an Australian
national flag was adopted on 20th February 1903, following a
nationwide competition. Thirty thousand entries were submitted and the British
Admiralty made the final choice. The union flag of Great Britain occupies the
canton. Below this is the six-pointed Federation star (changed to seven in
1909). In the fly are the five stars that make up the Southern Cross. The
Australian flag is essentially a British Blue Ensign charged with the
Commonwealth Star and the Southern Cross.
In September, Alfred Deakin, MP for Ballarat, became
Prime Minister following Edmund Barton’s resignation. Alfred Deakin was a
barrister, then a journalist. Deakin’s new government was not expected to break
with tradition of the Barton Government. Deakin resigned in April 1904 after
refusing to accept a Labor amendment to an Arbitration Bill. He had served for
seven months. Workers and new unions thought they had struck gold when John
Christian (Chris) Watson became Australia’s third Prime Minister, taking office
on 27th April 1904, at the age of 37. The perfect picture of a
statesman, Watson was the first Prime Minister from the Australian Labor Party,
and the world’s first Labor head of government at a national level, but Watson’s
ministry soon fell victim to the chronic political instability of the time. Six
bills were enacted, and all but one were money bills. Unable to command a
majority in the house, then having been refused dissolution by the
Governor-General, Lord Northcote, Watson resigned and his term in office ended
on 18th August 1904, just four months later. Watson did not go away,
but became director of Labor Papers Ltd and publisher of The
Worker, the Australian Workers’ Union paper. The cartoonist at
The Worker, Monty Scott, lead the international
press with his class iconography that openly depicted Labor and Capital heroes
and villains, engaged in a life-and-death struggle. Through his depiction of the
workers’ budding parliamentary representative, he and his contemporaries held an
optimistic belief that Socialism in our time could be achieved.
The High Court of Australia was established in 1901,
but it would be October 1903 with the passage of the Judiciary Act before the
first sitting took place in the Supreme Court in Melbourne. It was a
distinguished bench; Chief Justice Samuel Griffiths, Edmond Barton, and Richard
E O’Connor. Many thought the High Court would be a redundant tribunal without
status, but from their first judgements the justices stamped the authority of
the High Court over the State Supreme Courts, proving a powerful and necessary
arm of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Court quickly gained an international
reputation for judicial excellence.
In the fourth year of Federation, George Houston
Reid, leader of the Free Trade Group, became the fourth Australian Prime
Minister, and Minister for Free Trade. Free Trade Regime within the Commonwealth
had been ordained by the Constitution, and the Commonwealth Parliament had
exclusive powers to levy Customs and Excise duties. There would, therefore, be
free trade within tariffs at Australian borders. But the Commonwealth was also
required to return three quarters of all its Customs and Excise revenue to the
states for 10 years. This meant a higher tariff than Free Traders would want.
The battle was to maintain a workable revenue tariff without slipping into
Protectionist levels. The search was for fiscal truth, but that had to wait
until the next election. Reid’s success story was the passage of the
Conciliation and Protectionist Act. The Reid Government was defeated in a
censure motion. His term was brief – 10 months – but Reid became the first
Australian High Commissioner to Britain.
The horse and carriage was challenged when a new era
brought to private transport the introduction of a horseless carriage. The
Landau was sometimes known as a motorcar. The vehicles, elegantly painted and
trimmed, had the power come from a horizontal oil engine using ordinary
kerosene. It acted upon friction gearing direct on to the rear wheels, and the
control levers were simple and handy to the driver. It tested at over 10 miles
(16 kms) an hour, was speculated to travel up to 30 or 40 miles an hour, and the
pneumatic tyres kept the ride quiet. It was displayed at the Exhibition
Buildings in Melbourne where statesmen and the wealthy alike were excited over
the new invention. Dim street lamplights would also disappear when electric
street light brightened the night sky in Sydney. Tamworth was the first to light
up in Australia.
Development progressed and Walter Edmund Roth became
the Northern protector of Aboriginals. Part of his responsibilities was to
record Aboriginal cultures, but his main brief was to prevent the exploitation
of Aborigines, particularly in employment and marriage. He was also responsible
for the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders’ employment. Roth possessed a
strong personality and administrative drive, which bought him into conflict with
politicians, settlers and the press. He also headed the Western Australian Royal
Commission into the condition of the Aborigines in the North West. In his 1905
report he documented wrongs and injustices, cruelties and abuses, and made
recommendations for better administration, and contributed to the new
legislation. Police would no longer be able to force Aborigines without a
contract to stay with their employer. Roth appeared to have good relations with
the Indigenous and Chinese people wherever he worked. It was during his time
that neck chains were banned from use on Aboriginals in Western Australia. When
he came under further political attack in 1906, he resigned on the grounds of
ill health and left Australia, never to return.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 had created
a new Arbitration Court. This court was formed to provide the mechanism for the
compulsory arbitration of industrial disputes. The High Court of Australia had
three main purposes. It interpreted the Constitution, acted as a Court of Appeal
for decisions of state courts, and had an original jurisdiction. On
Constitutional matters its decisions were final except where it granted leave to
appeal to the Privy Council. The Arbitration Court was founded on the need for
the workers who had been defeated in their recent great strikes of 1891 and
1894, to put their claims for industrial justice to an arbitration authority for
legally binding decisions.
Alfred Deakin returned as Prime Minister for a second
term in office in 1905. He was responsible for the 16 white-painted war ships of
the United States Atlantic Fleet sailing into Sydney Harbour on 20th
August 1908; a reminder to our Asian neighbours that although Australia was
white and isolated, we had powerful allies. Deakin had defied protocol by making
his request directly to the US consulate, his first step in asserting
Australia’s post-colonial independence. Under-Secretary, Winston Churchill,
objected but the British Government grudgingly endorsed the Australian
invitation. Following, Deakin argued strongly in parliament for the
establishment of an Australian Navy, but the British Admiralty opposed
Australia’s ambitions. Churchill and Deakin had clashed at the imperial
conference in 1907 over the great Free Trade versus Protection row in Britain,
and this encounter coloured Churchill’s attitude towards Australian politicians
– and Australia – forever.
Whilst the Federal Treasurer was having tests done to
see if the new calculating machines could be trusted, the Copyright Act of 1905
was established. Not members of the Berne Union who controlled world copyright
laws, Australian parliamentarians accepted a limited conception of copyright as
the property of the authors, and not third parties, with the term of the
copyright not exceeding the life of the owner. Senator Keating stated in Hansard
that Australia led the way so far as legislation on the subject of copyright was
Books were out of the reach of the working-class man;
even newspapers were passed hand-to-hand to those who could read. The
Bulletin Newspaper Company in Sydney published a rare literary insight into
Australian life when it published in several parts the novel
Such is Life by Tom Collins. It was quite common at the time
for people to write under a pen name, and it was Joseph Furphy who penned as Tom
Collins. Joseph had won first prize at the Kyneton Literary Society for his
verse on the death of President Lincoln. Such is Life
was a witty account of the travels of Tom Collins, a bullock driver, and his
encounters over a decade. The aim of the author was to assist the readers to get
both wisdom and understanding. The reading public were slow to respond, and
sales were disappointing.
Henry Lawson, a writer of Australian ballads and
short stories, was first published by the Boomerang
newspaper, but the newspaper was in trouble and let him go. The
Worker also published some prose and rhymes, but it
was J F Archibald of the Bulletin who
recognised Lawson’s extraordinary skills and inner failings, paying his expenses
to go to the Outback and Bourke. When Lawson returned, he had written some of
his finest, like The Union Buries Its Dead. His
works were well received. Lawson employed a pseudonym: Tally.
Andrew Barton Paterson used the pen name
The Banjo and was another Australian bush poet, author
and journalist. He began writing for the Bulletin when he was a law
student. He helped Lawson draw up contracts with publishers and they began a
friendly battle with responding articles in the Bulletin. Banjo’s ballads
such as Clancy of the Overﬂow and
The Man from Ironbark were so popular with readers that
Angus and Robertson published the collection. Waltzing Matilda
became Australia’s best known. Still, those who could afford to
buy books preferred to get them sent from England, believing that the best
writers were published there.
The Quarantine Act, The Bureau of Census and
Statistics, and the Meteorology Bureau were also established during Deakin’s
second term which lasted three years.
* * *
Drought had been the biggest cause of unemployment in
the bush, and when it extended through Federation for seven long years this
country, which had risen to prosperity on the sheep’s back, came crashing down
in the red hot dust. My father was employed at a property called
Raelands near Coonamble by a wealthy pastoralist, Henry
Green. They met when Father was seeking a paddock to hold 100 head of cattle he
had purchased. Their friendship grew and Henry asked Father if he would come and
work for him. Henry had only one son and many daughters. His brother, who had
worked with him, left after a disagreement, and my father had proven himself
honest and reliable. So together they worked hard to save their cattle. In a
desperate attempt to save Henry’s prized bulls, Father had driven cattle
wherever feed could be found, often staying away from Raelands
for long periods of time. As the long dry continued, Henry lost most of his
cattle, and my father lost all but three head. Henry was loyal to the end to
those who worked for him, but finally had to let men go. My father had married
Henry’s eldest daughter, Emma, in 1904 and was kept on, but his pride would not
allow him to stay at the expenses of the Green family.
After much discussion, he packed the wagon. Henry was
distraught at this decision and begged them to stay. Emma was 19 and had only
known a privileged life and Henry feared for her safety. In truth, she was his
favoured daughter. In desperation he called out as they boarded the buggy, “If
you go now, you can’t ever come back.” This shocked them both for Emma loved her
father, and Alf Martin respected and admired Henry. With tears rolling down her
cheeks, Emma glanced back at her father; her mother had already turned her back.
They rode in silence, taking the long dusty road towards Barcaldine, Henry’s
words ringing in their ears. Words that haunted them both as it was only
Father’s pride that had forced them to leave. There was no work at
Raelands and no relief in sight. The future was looking
bleak for them all. My father had arrived at Raelands
five years earlier when Emma was a young girl of 13. Each time he returned from
droving he was invited into the Green homestead to share a meal with the family.
Over the years he had watched Emma develop into a beautiful young woman, not
tall but slim, with beautiful flowing, long, red, curly hair and a sharp wit
that kept him guessing. She was doing the accounts for her father one afternoon
when he returned, and she pleaded with him to take her riding with him whilst he
checked on his cattle.
My father told the story that following that ride,
she proposed to him, suggesting they had known each other for five long years
and that she would make him a good wife. She knew how to cook and clean, she had
cared for her brother and many sisters, and was a competent bookkeeper for her
father. She was sure she was in love with him. Her mother, Elizabeth,
disapproved of Emma marrying below her class, but within a year they were
married with Henry’s blessing. Father couldn’t believe his luck, for by the time
they married his only wealth was three head of cattle. At Marro Station the
owner welcomed them. Father worked tirelessly for the next three months as a
shearer and union representative, then sadly the work ran out. He had been well
paid during his time and was given a fine reference stating he was a first-class
example for the rest of the shearers. There was only a handful of small jobs as
they travelled away from Marro. Work was scarce everywhere. With Emma by his
side and his determination to make a new life for them, desperation appeared in
his voice as he asked every passing traveller if they had heard of work.
My father was not a miner, but gold had been
discovered at Canbelego on the Nyngan to Cobar Road where the Mount Boppy Mine
had been established. By 1905, the mine supported a population of 1500 men.
Although the mine did struggle because of the shortage of water, they were still
hiring when Father arrived at the office. Emma was heavily pregnant and sat in
their uncovered horse-drawn cart to wait. It was midday, and the scorching hot
sun beat down on her. My father had no desire to go down into the mines, so took
a job as a tree cutter. The timber was used to support the working faces
underground. They needed accommodation so followed the sign stating “House for
Rent”. During the night, and without warning, Emma went into early labour and
gave birth to twin boys. Grief overwhelmed them when both boys died soon after
delivery by a midwife. My father carried his guilt heavily, believing Emma would
have been in better hands if they had not left Raelands.
Canbelego was surveyed as a new township in 1901, and
when my parents arrived it was already a bustling mining town. There was a large
mining office, a schoolhouse attended by over 200 children, a grocery store,
Cain’s Cash Store, run by a husband and wife team, and a vegetable stall run by
a Chinaman with a long, plaited ponytail. Over the road from their house, large
green motors bellowed smoke into the air as they chugged noisily. Whistles blew
from time to time and some 300 miners, dressed in their long trousers, suit
jackets and hats, were coming and going, changing shifts. The railway station
was located at Mount Boppy and locomotives passed through their town each day
from Cobar to Nyngan.
The Mount Boppy Mine was established in 1896 when
significant discoveries of gold were made. They quickly became the largest
producer of gold in New South Wales. The town was thriving and work was in
abundance. My parents’ home was a small, white, wooden, attached house, the same
as those that ran for a mile up the right-hand side of the main street. Their
front door, bright red, stood out amongst the many bright colours alongside
them. Out front was a horse rail and out back they stored their buggy and horse
feed. Here they settled into a new life and Emma had made friends through her
tragedy. Emma wrote a short note to her mother about her babies, but no reply
My father was a storyteller. Whenever there was a
dispute about wages or working conditions at the mines he would say, “Never
forget Barcaldine, son, for those men fought long and hard for justice for the
worker.” In 1894, the pastoralists had a new contract which stripped the union
and the workers of their rights, making the employer the sole judge under the
law in all disputes under the Masters and Servants Act. Slave wages were
offered. Unbeknown to the union and workers, the government had spent over
£100,000 to ensure the success of the 1894 Pastoralists Agreement, using police
and the military to deal with riots; the West was alive with police. The workers
refused the contract terms and stated: “If we are oﬀered slavery, we cannot be
condemned if we refuse it. It’s better for Australians to die than become a
nation of slaves.” Instead they took up arms, and the strike began.
The union leaders were arrested and sent to jail. The
conspiracy trial under Justice Harding was venomous, vindictive and blood
thirsty. He had a personal distaste for the working man, and believed that the
squatter was the ruling power on the land. Harding attacked the police for
failing to fire on the unionists. He bullied the jury for three days to come up
with a guilty verdict, and his contemptuous refusal to consider the jury’s
recommendation for clemency was notorious. He had summed up to the jury for nine
hours, stating there was a prima facie case of conspiracy. Then in one fell
stroke, the most cherished of civil liberties were removed.
“We must stand up for our rights,” Father had
insisted, and he was talking from first-hand experience. At the Tangorin Shed in
the Hughendon District north of Barcaldine scuffles broke out between the union
men and the scab labour. Workers rebelled and Constable Quilter, who was
directed by the pastoralist, clambered onto a box, ordering the men back to
work. Colonel Price had issued orders to the police that the rebelling was to
stop, and the police were to shoot to kill if necessary. Although the constable
was armed, a shot rang out before he was prepared. Constable Quilter fell to the
ground with a bullet in his leg, his red blood staining his white jodhpurs.
Union men galloped out to the nearby strike camp to warn of the trouble. Two men
– Johnson and O’Brien – were later arrested. Father did not fire a shot, but was
involved in trying to resolve the dispute, so his name was blacklisted and he
struggled to get further work. The way around the blacklisting was for men to
change their names, then apply for a new shearer’s ticket. Alf Martin Godfrey
was the alias name of Alfred John Shipp.
Queensland had come pretty close to slavery around
1870 when traders searched the south seas, looking for workers for the state’s
sugar and cotton plantations. As profits increased, so did the abuse. One
newspaper accused Captain Robert Town’s skippers of being kidnappers who used
leg irons, whips and nooses. Opposition to the blackbirding came to a climax
when the bosun of a Burn’s Philip schooner received death sentences for
murdering natives, but it was not the protests that ended the Kanakas era, but
Federation and the White Australia Policy.
The Common Man – mostly white – did it tough, but the
Aboriginal native had it tougher. There was no pay, only food and clothing.
There was no freedom to move about, and their children were taken away from them
and placed in missions. The Aborigine was smarter than he was given credit for,
and his treatment by the government was appalling. The removal of black children
from their mothers was a reason for the white man to be afraid. “Always keep one
ear to the ground,” my father would say. “Where whispers are loud, you often ﬁnd
The following year, on 8th July, Emma gave
birth to another baby, a boy. My loud first cry brought relief, then sheer
delight for my parents, for the memory of their lost twin boys still lingered.
Mother suggested to Father, “I will name our boy after you and your father. We
will name him Martin William Godfrey.”
My mother was happy in Canbelego. Heads turned as she
passed, pushing her new white wicker pram, not because she often sang as she
walked, but because she was beautiful and her voice so refined was not often
heard in a mining town. She was happy because their son was born in this great
land, a land now called Australia. I was classed as an Australian-born British
At the beginning of the 20th century
Australian citizenship was not a formal legal term. A person born in Australia
was a British subject, and owed allegiance to the empire.