Australian History_The Great Depression

Unit 4 Outcome 1
The Great
Revision Lecture
Kamila Bielinski
Unemployed men receiving food
handouts from a charity
A NSW dole camp during the
Depression - a corrugated iron shed
had become home.
Escapism – Sir Donald Bradman
The Swaggie
Shanty Towns
Prime Minister
James Scullin
trying in vain to
balance the
Federal budget.
Scullin tries his strength
The Bulletin, July 1930
Jack Lang NSW Premier took drastic economic
measures to avoid paying back debt to the Bank
of England. His tactics led to his dismissal
Jack Lang criticised for his economic policies
‘For God’s sake
stop laughing this
is serious!’
Cross Drew 1933
In the view of many
this summed up
Australians’ attitude
to the crisis.
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Dot Points as per the Study Design:
• an outline of the depression and the ways in which Australians
responded to the crisis: (Impact & Response)
• the extent to which the depression shook old certainties and
provided opportunities for people to argue for change;
• the extent to which the cohesion of Australian society was
maintained or redefined by the experience of the crisis.
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Key concepts:
• Depression
• Social cohesion
• Disharmony
• Responses from groups
Urban Working Class
Middle Class
Upper Class
• Borrowed prosperity
• Inequality
• Economic expansion
• Urban boom
• Recession
• Depression
• Wall Street Crash
• Psychological Stress
• Destitution
• Charity
• Escapism
• Phar Lap
• Bodyline (Cricket)
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
• Suggested Historians –
• Potts
• Spencely
• Lowenstien
• Blainey
• Cannon and Tudball
• McCalman
• Spearrit
• Cottell
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Where are we heading…?
• We begin at the start of 1927 with the decline of the economy
and discuss how we had a ‘borrowed prosperity'
• Then move into the Wall Street Crash and the effect it had on
Australia Government plans and Otto Neimeyer coming over
to insist on a Deflationary course of action.
• Evictions, loss of jobs, shantytowns, living in slums and the
effect this had on the working classes.
• What happened to the middle and upper classes
• Charities and their role
• Women and Children
• Strikes, unions, the rise of the Communist party and the New
• Recovery
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
• What is this Great Depression 1929-1935?
The Great Depression describes a period of economic downturn
which affected most of the countries of the western world
between 1929 and the mid 1930s.
The strict definition of a depression is four quarters (1 year) in
which the economy shrinks or contracts instead of growing.
In normal times, the economy of a country increases in value
each quarter. If growth does not take place over two quarters
(6 months) then an economy is said to be in recession, and for
4 quarters it is a depression.
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
1. A depression is characterised by the following:
• A decline in demand for goods
• A decline in business activity and production and possibly
business collapse
• Fall in prices for rural produce
• unemployment
• defaulting on mortgages, inability to pay rent, inability to
buy basic necessities such as food and clothing
• increasing pressure on charities, illness, psychological
problems, some increase in petty crime.
• The depression was certainly a time of misery for some possibly as many as 30% to 40% of the population.
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
2. A depression is characterised by the
• The depression in Australia also led to great political
upheaval and instability. When times are tough,
people always look for someone to blame and it is
usually the government.
• Disagreement over who was to blame and how the
depression could be ‘fixed’ led to over 25 elections,
state and federal, (most resulting in a change of
government) between 1929 and 1935.
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
1. HOWEVER it is important to remember :
• Not everyone suffered in the depression!
• Because prices fell more than wages, those who
remained in work (up to 70% of the population),
were actually better off. Moreover, some people
really prospered in the depression (e.g. Cinema
owners – escapism).
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
2. HOWEVER it is important to remember :
• That even among those who suffered unemployment
and poverty there were many positive experiences.
There are stories of families helping each other out,
of remarkable charity work, most of it voluntary, of
people developing new skills and learning to ‘make
do’ (Potts).
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
An outline of the Depression and its impact and the
way people responded
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Impact and Response
• Migrants
• Urban Working Class
• Women
• Upper Class
• Political groups
• Aborigines
Ways of Coping
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Union membership increased by 1932
Had sing-alongs
Anti-eviction groups
Shared what they had
Some joined the Communist and Socialist
Went to the beach or top the races and
bought cheap seats at the cinema
Some jumped the rattler with mates and had
a bit of an adventure
Many men and unions argued that women
were taking their jobs
Noel Counihan (social realism) painted
workers, the poor , Aborigines and prostitutes
(minority groups) depicting the injustices
and poverty of the Depression. His work
offended the world of ‘high art’.
Jack Lang fought for the battler but lost his
seat in NSW
Violent clashes against opposing groups such
as the New Guard
Unit 4 AOS 1
Was everyone
The Great Depression
affected the same
Not all people experienced unemployment or extreme poverty.
For some it was an initial crisis, but they managed to deal with
it periodically
Women could find work, but for less pay. By 1933 25% of
workers were women and only 15% of women were unemployed
– males 26% by 1932.
Some children found work when they lied about their age
Some found part-time or sporadic work
Some managed to access the SUSSO or handouts
Others left their family to ease the burden
Some sought family support
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Lower Class
• "Widespread economic distress" working class Historian
Marilyn Lake
• Winston Stradher points out that “As families were
evicted … shanty towns emerged”
• “As the Depression deepened, symptoms of moral decay
appeared”- Janet McCalman
• Joan Coxsedge – “a pittance to keep the body and soul
alive” in relation to the Susso
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Upper Class
• Those who were in full time employment experienced an
improvement in real living standards, rather than a
diminution” – Spencely
• “ The rich continued to remain rich” – Drew Cottle
• “ Able to live a comfortable life through the depression” Winston Stradher
• “Heralded not a period of misery, but one of prosperity and
material progress” Spencely
• Mrs. Eustace sent her children to Paris for the year
• “we able to buy on a failing market, food, travel, clothing etc.
was very cheap those years” J. Atkinson
• Kambala student recalls- “none of the girls walked to school…
driven by parents chauffeurs”
• Sidney Myer Christmas Appeals
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
• The government were in dead-shit trouble- Potts
• R. Engwerda – “The general reaction was to reduce
spending by as much as possible”
• ALP split up
• Geoffrey Spenceley argues that “There had been much
dithering, disagreement and delay in the Labor
• Wendy Lowenstein - “Government relief was a charity
which many found difficult to accept”
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
• 70% were employed- Spencley
• “Women are in ruthless competition with men”Journalist William Denning
• Stanley Seymour Argyle- premier who closed sole-women
hiring shops
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
The extent to which the depression
experience shook old certainties and
provided opportunities that brought change
– change to Australian society, change to
individuals, change to the ideas and values
that underpinned society etc. You are also to
think about whether the depression gave
people the opportunity to argue for change.
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Old certainties shaken by the crisis
• Democracy
• Political stability *
• Economic system
• Gender roles
• Working Man’s Paradise
• Job security
• Egalitarian society
• Secure Housing *
• Social structures and values *
• Relationship with Britain
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
What is meant by shake old certainties?
- What this dot point generally asks you to think
about is the extent to which the depression
brought about change. ‘shaking old certainties’
refers to the impact of the depression on ideas,
values, institutions, social, political structures
and the economy as well as ways of doing things
that people accepted as normal.
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
What is meant by shake old certainties?
• It should be noted that most upheavals rarely cause permanent
change. Real social change on a national level is slow and gradual.
The fundamentals on which society was based remained largely the
• You are aware of the fundamentals on which Australian was based
at federation (NRC). In this topic you are asked to think about:
• Whether old certainties were shaken or even changed by the
depression experience?
• What sorts of certainties were shaken or changed? (Job security,
standards of living, family unity, the economic system, the
political system, reliance on government)
• What certainties or aspects of society remained unaffected?
• Whether the changes were permanent or temporary, superficial
or deep seated?
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
The Political System and its stability
• Change is always a part of political life, but there seemed to be a great deal
more political change during the depression years. There were several events
or movements which led people’s certainties about politics to be shaken.
• The large number of elections, almost all of which resulted in a change of
government. This created a feeling of insecurity.
• The split in the ALP, for the second time. This shook the confidence of many
working class people in the party that they believed would look after them.
• The irregular response of Jack Lang to the matter of interest payments to
• The sacking of Premier Jack Lang by the Governor of NSW, Sir Phillip Game.
• The growth of extremist organizations at the left and right of the political
• The government of Western Australia attempted to secede from the
Australian Commonwealth in 1933.
• The region of the Riverina wanted to set itself up as a separate state.
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
The Political System and its stability
Real change?
• The political system was shaken but not overturned.
• In spite of these upheavals, the political system remained the same
• Australia remained a democracy.
• There were still two major parties – ALP and Conservatives (UAP)
• As the crisis passed, support for extreme right and left wing groups
fizzled out.
• The WA secession movement also fizzled out.
• The federal government took a greater role in the regulation of the
economy through the establishment of the Federal Loan Council and
this continued after the depression.
• The federal government also took over the payment of unemployment
benefits from the states. This continued after the depression.
Secure Housing
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
• Before the depression, fewer than 50% of Australians owned their own home.
• Loss of secure accommodation was often the most dramatic consequence of
unemployment According to David Potts, the reactions of unemployed
renters varied:
• Some landlords evicted non-paying tenants
• Some landlords lowered rents and allowed good tenants to remain.
• Some tenants looked for cheaper housing in smaller houses or outer
• Some tenants moved in with relatives.
• At the worst stage of the depression it is estimated that 40,000 to 70,000
people were living in makeshift accommodation or were on the road.
• 1935 was the worst year for banks repossessing homes because people had
defaulted on mortgages.
• Those who had to sell houses sold them cheaply and there were others willing
to buy them. Essendon businessman Jack Watts bought up 10 cottages
cheaply in North Melbourne and Flemington during the 1930s.
Secure Housing
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Real Change?
• Security about housing was shaken for some, but not overturned.
• If anything, the experience of homelessness actually led more Australians to value
home ownership which grew to about 70% by 1960. Many became determined never
to be homeless again. (e.g. Agnes Johnstone)
• By 1939, most of the shanty towns had disappeared. As the economy improved,
building of houses increased and more rental housing became available. On the
other hand, there were people who built new houses during the depression taking
advantage of cheaper materials and lower wages for workers. (AV Jennings). James
McCabe, a businessman from North Melbourne, built a large house in Brighton in
• The experiences of homelessness led governments to take greater responsibility for
housing. The Housing Commission of Victoria was established in 1938 and the
public Housing Commission of NSW started in 1940. For the nation as a whole,
longer term improvements in housing, largely came as a result of the depression.
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Social structures and values
The basic social structure and values that underpinned Australian
society did not change significantly. Some aspects were strengthened,
others were challenged.
Family life – threatened to some degree – break-up, children in
orphanages, fathers on the road, slight increase in divorce rate BUT
little long term change.
Role of women – women took on greater responsibility, campaigns
for better pay for women (led by Muriel Heagney) BUT men’s wages still
higher, women had few rights.
Egalitarianism – Australia had never been a classless society but
there had been a belief that everyone had the opportunity to do well and
improve. This belief was challenged during the depression.
Those at the bottom of the social and economic ladder – the unskilled,
the poorly educated, those in rented accommodation, those without
savings were the worst hit by the depression. Many people questioned
the idea that Australia was an egalitarian society.
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Social structures and values
White Australia was strengthened.– racist attitudes towards
Aborigines, Chinese, Europeans even some British became more
severe. Competition for jobs brought out racist tendencies.
Treatment of Aborigines became worse – children taken from
Education – school leaving ages, especially for girls, fell during
the depression years. Most private schools also reported a decline
in enrolments. Boarding schools were particularly affected
because of the impact of the depression on the farming
communities. However, by 1937 enrolments were again rising.
Social responsibility - There was a strengthening in the
amount of charitable work and in the sense of social
responsibility, but only among a section of the population.
Families, church groups and organizations such as the Country
Women’s Association raised funds, provided meals, assisted with
clothing and shelter. Groups such as the Unemployed Workers’
Movement helped families to resist evictions.
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
To sum up …
Some of these changes such as:
• the increasing role of the federal
government in terms of economic
regulation and welfare,
• Some restructuring of the economy,
• BUT the majority of the change brought
by the depression was temporary. As the
economy began to revive, most of the
evidence suggests that normal patterns of
life - employment, housing and family life
returned to the pre depression situation.
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
To sum up …
• Some people, interviewed by researchers such as Lowenstein,
Potts, Broomhill and McCalman, say that were scarred for
life by their experiences of unemployment. Others claim that
the depression experience made them stronger and more
determined to be successful. Overall, however, it appears
that the depression did not have a permanent impact on the
certainties on which Australian life had been based since
federation –
• There was still strong loyalty to Britain (shown by the
mourning at the death of King George V and the public
celebration of the coronation of King George V1 in 1937.)
Australians were still passionately interested in sport. The
economy was still based largely on primary produce yet
Australia was still an urban nation.
• The depression could be said to have shaken old
certainties but not to have removed them
Changes by 1937-39
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Short Term
Long Term
By 1932 1/3 of the country was unemployed.
However 2/3 were better off with lower prices.
Governments made plans to ensure an
economic depression like this would not occur
Price of wool and wheat fell dramatically as
Australia paid back its overseas loans
Some people had bitter memories
Some people lost their homes whilst other were
given extra time on the mortgages
Whilst other felt it taught them how to budget
and make do
Increase infant mortality and malnutrition
People were politicized and realised the power
of activism
Nature if the breadwinner being Dad changed,
loss of dignity as women and children became
the wage earners. Increased stress due to
For Aborigines, children were taken from them,
whole families were broken and as a result
became even more disenfranchised
Rise in union and political party activity whilst
Governments became more aware of the need
for social responsibility with pensions etc.
For many there were long term debts to be
repaid, lost houses to be replaced, severed
families to be connected and confidence
restored to those who lost their dignity through
continual unemployment.
More dependence on charities and the SUSSO
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
The extent to which the depression led to greater or less cohesion –
that is co-operation, sticking together, mutual support. There is
evidence that the depression experience led to division and mistrust.
There is also abundant evidence of extraordinary co-operation
between those who were suffering and those who were better off.
One example: It was known that homeless men used to gather in
the laneways behind city hotels and restaurants and rummage in
the dustbins looking for food. Several restaurant owners began the
nightly practice of putting good quality food on the tops of their
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Cohesion maintained or redefined for?
• Migrants
• Urban Working Class
• Women
• Upper Class
• Political groups
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Working Class
• Potts “the same boat” …. “sharing between nieghbours”…
“pulling together in the face of adversity.”
• J. Atkinson - “were able to help close relations and others”
• Lowenstein - “to look after Number One”
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Upper Class
• Drew Cottle - “stood for preserving the existing social
• Mrs. Pont - “allowed one to know who was who”
• Potts “less snobbery and more comradeship” … “leveled
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
• Geoffrey Spenceley - “There had been much dithering,
disagreement and delay in the Labor government”
• Historian R. Engwerda - “A small group of conservatives
led by Joe Lyons and another group of radical Jack Lang
supporters deserted the party.”
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Some Tips!
Juxtaposition of historical perspectives
A highly capable history student is able to juxtapose historical
points of view. This shows the assessor that you are able to
analyse and acknowledge varying historical perspectives in your
Some Samples –
1. Marilyn Lake states that “Widespread economic distress”
was a problem in Australia, yet in stark contrast Historian
Spencley identified that “70% of Australia was employed”
during the depression.
2. However contrary to Historian Drew Cottle’s view is
Historian David Potts who is of the opinion that the upper
class showed less snobbery and more comradeship.”
Unit 4 AOS 1
The Great Depression
Not to do!
Use accurate dates and statistics
Generalise - there are many groups of
people who were affected in a variety of
ways, everybody had their own
Include anecdotes and peoples’ names
Do not just focus on the working class or
Include historical perspectives
Do not forget to include political, social
and economic information
Juxtapose historical points of view
Do not stress too much. If you practice,
you cant help but succeed.
Use the metalanguage of the period
Address the question and keep referring
to it throughout the body of your work
Look at many groups in society
Writes as many practice essays before the
exam as possible so you feel comfortable
with your time management.
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