Early Canberra


Ex- Victorian soldiers No 1 Camp 1922

Posted on September 5, 2010 at 7:27 PM

In May 1922 W Bluett of Canberra wrote a letter to the Queanbeyan Observer commenting on the lack of help given to ex-servicemen brought to Canberra to work as labourers on the building of the city.  A copy of this letter is added to the section on No 1 Labourers Camp.


Because of the difficulty in attracting workmen to come to Canberra to build the city and the high enemployment of returned servicemen the decision was made by the government and the Returned Sailors & Solders Imperial League to move 200 unemployed ex-servicemen to Canberra.  The men came from NSW and Victoria.  When they arrived they were put into camps near the Power House and on the north side of the Molonglo in a camp probably near Mt Pleasant.  The original plan was to put three men in each tent.  It soon became clear that only two men would fit.  The men were supplied with a bed - probably a stretcher - but no blankets - in a Canberra winter.


Bluett's letter refers to 50 ex-servicemen from Victoria and the lack of help given by the local Southern District Representative - Mr Everard Crace.


Not only were the conditions that the ex-servicemen found were  poor, but they found that one of the officials had decided that the men in the territory were being paid too much and decided to reduce condtions.  This fact is referred to in the letter by Bluett. 


The poor conditions of all the construction workers led to the first strike in the Territory. 


The majority of constuction workers in the territory had served in the Great War.  Many still suffered from what would call today - Post Traumatic Stress -  Many found that alcohol masked their symptoms and as the Federal Capital Territory was 'dry' - ie sale of alcohol prohibited - travelled across the border to the NSW town of Queanbeyan where they could slake their thirst legally - the result was drunkeness that at times led to fights and some deaths. 



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