Port Adelaide has, since the 1830s when Colonel William Light, the first Surveyor-General of the Colony of South Australia and designer of Adelaide, decided that it and Adelaide should be distinct separate entities, always been a blue collar or working class area. The gentry resided in Adelaide. This division, by and large, remains to this day.
Outside socialist countries one rarely comes across grand or tasteful monuments or memorials to the working classes. It was thus somewhat of a surprise when I came across this memorial and determined that it was to the working man (and indeed woman).
Originally intended to honour labour veteran, H Garland Senior, it was actually decided to add the names of, and honour, deceased labour leaders in general who had made a significant contribution in promoting the cause of Port Adelaide workers of enhancing local community life. Twenty four local trade unions came up with the original names to be remembered – 41 men and one woman – eight of who had lost their lives in World War I. The names of a further 65 people who have made an outstanding contribution to the working class people of Port Adelaide have been added since (to 2013) and, as you might expect, many maritime workers have been honoured.
The 12ft high granite plinth (on which the names of those honoured are recorded) of the memorial, actually the first piece of public statuary in Port Adelaide, was constructed in 1918 though insufficient funds had been collected to complete the memorial at that time. The very beautiful 6ft Italian marble “Justice” figure, paid for by Mr & Mrs B. Winter, was added in September 1921. The scales of Justice represent equality for all while the sword is there to ensure its enforcement.
Some, especially given its timing, have construed this as an anti-war memorial. The memorial is rather unique, in Australia at least, in the way it honours those who worked unceasingly in an everyday way,’ sacrificing much that their fellows might enjoy a little more of the better things’.
In 2011 at a May Day rally attendees were reminded via words voiced in 1916 by a Hobart labourer, Samuel Champ, that the promotion of workers rights was not always easy:
Our liberties were not won by mining magnates or stock-exchange jobbers, but by genuine men of the working-class movement who had died on the gallows and rotted in dungeons and were buried in nameless graves. These were the men to whom we owed the liberties we enjoyed today. Eight hours and other privileges in Australia had been won by men who suffered gaol and persecution.
Address: Intersection Commercial Road & St Vincent’s Street
Directions: Outside what is now the Visitor Information Centre.