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Bill Woerlee

Australian elections 5 May 1917

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Geoff S

Hi Bill,

The next book on my reading list just happens to be ‘The Story of Conscription in Australia’ by Jauncey, L.C published in 1935. It explores the campaigns against the introduction of conscription in 1916/1917 in Aust. I only recently decided to read it.

For many years it was the only book to have been published on this subject. I will let you know if it contains anything of interest about the Germans in the S.A. election. But in the meantime, you might want to have a look at it the next time you are at the AWM.

Cheers

Geoff S

P.S. Finished the AMR history last night,- it was a pretty easy read really, with some nice listing in the back, . but FYI- I note the AMR history specifically noting twice in 1916 about the 3rd L.H.B. leaving their flank exposed. (they were not critical of any other L.H) I assume your mate Antill at work again before he got the chop….

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Bill Woerlee

Geoff

G'day mate

Thanks for that. Just wondering if you could scan the references for me and email them - love to have a captain cook without necessarily getting to the AWM. Just pix'll do.

Cheers

Bill

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Geoff S

Bill,

Ok, but let me type the AMR references first over on the ALHA, and you can then determine if they are noteworthy.- they are both only quite short

Cheers

G

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Guest Simon Bull

Being married to a woman who has lived in Australia and is descended from German immigrants to the UK I read this with some fascination.

Bill -could I ask what proportion of the population of Australia were of German extraction in 1914? In the UK lots of the German immigrants were pork butchers or sugar bakers. Do you know if it was the same in Australia?

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Bill Woerlee

Simon

G'day mate and thanks for your interesting note.

The reason for concentrating this topic on South Australia is not accidental, this state contained the highest population of people with German origins. About 10% of the South Australian population was either German or of German descent. Their mark was clear in both the political and geographical landscape around Adelaide as they settled in the Mount Lofty Ranges and extended their settlements upwards into the Barossa Valley. Until 1914, you would be excused in thinking that South Australia was a German colony due to the proliferation of Germanic names.

One thing that needs to be understood about the wave of German settlement that took place in South Australia - these were not the hardened jingoists from the north eastern regions but more than likely escapees from religious and political persecution, the former being the earlier impetus while the latter occurring closer to the turn of the century. In the early days of South Australian colonisation, the bulk of the Germans came from Saxony. They were Lutherans and small farmers. Hence when they arrived as discrete and licensed settlements, they were allocated an area of arable land wherein they set themselves up as the rural yeomanry. The names of the areas wherein they settled took on German names - hence the ring of German named towns around Adelaide.

They were hard working farmers working fruit blocks or market gardens. To the north in the Barossa Valley they established the heart of the Australian wine industry and still produce to this day some 56% of all Australian wines. So they were never pork butchers or sugar bakers although some no doubt were, the majority were farmers or artisans providing rustic support.

Unlike in the US where in Pennsylvania, the Germans were organised into the Bund, no such institution or movement occurred in South Australia. Initially, the leadership of the German community came under the sway of two of the most remarkable people in South Australian history, Lutheran priests by the names of Teichelmann and Schurmann. They were liberal and progressive in every sense of the term. Their first brush with government came from advocating Aboriginal rights. They ran a school in Adelaide in which they gave instruction in the local language - just sit back and imagine the difficulty of this task intellectually - first they had to learn the local language which had no written form. Then they published a grammar and dictionary in English in 1839, to them a second language, and then pass on literary skills to a society steeped in oral traditions. These two remarkable men were very influential within both the German community and the broader community during the periods of German settlement. In essence, while the Germans were small farmers, they held very liberal views and they were very much at the forefront of establishing human rights. Indeed, South Australia was the first and only state in Australia to give Aboriginal women the right to vote before Federation. This trend of social liberalism has always been the hallmark of South Australia and can be directly traced back to the impact of German heritage which established both the intellectual and economic settings for this movement.

So when the Great War came, there was no thought of leaving the Australian shores to fight for a country from whence they had escaped persecution. Quite the contrary, they signed up for the AIF with great enthusiasm and were well represented within the South Australian Light Horse Regiments, 3rd, 9th and 11th ALHRs.

When we see a letter like this signed by a “Woman” from “Mylor” we need to put it into context.

post-7100-1151016433.jpg

[Adelaide Advertiser, p.6, 13 November 1917]

May I call attention to the fact that at the women's meeting on November 5 with reference to the disenfranchisement of Germans some of the speakers emphasised their belief that our "loyal" German fellow-colonists would unlikely exercise their loyalty by accepting their disenfranchisement during the present crisis, as did the brave men who enlisted. Also, I would like to urge the association formed on the same occasion to eschew party politics. Mr Owen Smyth told us he would not have presided at the meeting had he not understood it was to be non-political.

Mylor was an outpost of English speakers who thought of themselves as part of the South Australian blue bloods which formed the backbone of the political grouping known today as the Liberal Party – the old school part. Even our current mincing Foreign Minister is from this lineage – a prancing prat. Surrounding Mylor was a sea of German towns so this can be seen more as a feeling of threat and isolation rather than a genuine desire to disenfranchise the German community. Where you see the most anti-German feeling is from Anglos within these isolated enclaves or who live in German towns. It is sort of an “us and them” mood. Thankfully it was not universal but it was influential enough to get a run in the newspapers and in Parliament.

Hope this helps you.

Cheers

Bill

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Guest Simon Bull

Bill

Thanks for this very detailed reply. I am quite interested by the process of immigration in general and (because of my wife) I have a particular interest in German emigration/immigration. What you have said is most interesting.

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Bill Woerlee

Simon

G'day mate

My pleasure to help.

Cheers

Bill

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