The unemployed who kicked: a study of the political struggles and organisations of the New South Wales unemployed in the Great Depression

A demonstration by the Unemployed Workers' Movement in Sydney in 1931.

Nadia Wheatley's groundbreaking thesis covering organisation and resistance by unemployed workers in New South Wales - particularly Sydney - during the Great Depression.

Submitted by Aunty Jack on June 18, 2023

The Wall Street crash of October 1929 and subsequent Great Depression hit Australia with particular force. By 1932, official statistics claimed that over one third of the workforce was unemployed, while the reality was likely much worse. This was accompanied by large scale social misery and destitution, but also by intense resistance from the unemployed.

Nadia Wheatley's master's thesis, completed in the 1970s, was the first work to look in detail at struggles by unemployed workers during the Depression. Based on extensive use of first-hand sources and interviews, it gives an in-depth account of how the unemployed organised in New South Wales and the struggles waged by them, particularly the anti-eviction movement that resulted in spectacular clashes between the unemployed and police in 1931, and organising by unemployed workers on relief work projects.