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Friday, 5 July 2013


Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards today congratulated the Castlemaine Branch of the Australian Labor Party on reaching their 110th milestone.

“This is a remarkable historical achievement and it was a pleasure to join with branch members and colleagues to celebrate this occasion on Wednesday night at the Theatre Royal in Castlemaine”.

“The Castlemaine Branch has a remarkable and very active history and has been at the centre of political and social debates in the region since its inception.”

“The Branch continues to be extremely active and meetings are defined by robust political discussion and debate.”

Background History

The Victorian Labor Party was established in 1902.  In October of that year Tom Mann a then famous British Unionist came to Australia and was employed by the young Party to establish Labor Party branches in country areas.

Tom Mann travelled extensively around Victoria speaking at public meetings on unionism and fairness in society.  At the end of each meeting he would ask for those who were interested to remain behind to form a branch of the fledging Political Party.

Mann visited Castlemaine in 1903 and formed the branch after a meeting on the 25th March. The first meeting of the branch was subsequently held in May 1903 with two guest speakers, one of these speakers was George Alexander Elmslie who was to become the first Labor Premier of Victoria in 1913.

The Branch was very active right from the start - a dispute arose with the central Party over the pre-selection process for a candidate for the 1904 State Election.H.S.W. Lawson, who was the State MP for the Castlemaine and Maldon electorate from 1904 to 1927 and Premier from 1918 to 1924, proved to be a formidable opponent for the Labor Party to campaign against.It was not until after Lawson resigned that Labor won the seat in the 1929 State election.

Another opponent was Prime Minister William Morris (Billy) Hughes who became the member for Bendigo in 1917. Newspaper articles show that the local Labor Party was strongly opposed to Hughes and his campaign to introduce conscription.

Over the years the Castlemaine Branch of the Labor Party has had some outstanding members, including Senator Jim Sheehan and his sister Nellie Sheehan. Jim was a Senator from 1938-1940 and 1943-1961.

His sister Nellie was a role model for women - she nominated for Pre-selection on numerous occasions against all male opponents, and in 1951 she was the only woman to attend the ALP Country Conference, she was elected to the Castlemaine Council in 1942 and in 1954 became the first woman Mayor, by a unanimous vote.

The local Branch has continued to be active in the local community and working with Labor MPs to ensure that the district has been a beneficiary of good government.

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