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Bromley, Frederick Hadkinson (1854–1908)

by N. W. Saffin

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Frederick Hadkinson Bromley (1854-1908), trade unionist and politician, was born on 30 November 1854, probably in south Staffordshire, England, son of Clara Bromley. Little is known of his early life, but after training in art at the School of Design, South Kensington, he became a japanner. About 1877 he came to Victoria under engagement as foreman of the japanning department of Hughes & Harvey, tinsmiths of Melbourne. He made his home in Carlton and on 24 July 1879 at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Balaclava, married Rosina Brown.

In the early 1880s Bromley became active in the trade union movement. With J. G. Barrett and David Wyllie he helped to establish the Melbourne Tinsmiths, Iron-workers and Japanners' Society; he was elected its first secretary on 30 April 1883. Reforms were won for the industry but Hughes & Harvey refused to accept the eight-hours system and Bromley was discharged. He set up as a decorative artist, becoming well known as a painter of trade union banners. In 1883 he also helped to organize the Tailoresses' Union, and was elected president in January 1885.

Bromley became his union's representative on the Trades Hall Council on 17 May 1883; in early 1884 he was elected vice-president and on 27 March 1885 president. He was secretary of a T.H.C. subcommittee which conferred in July 1883 with the royal commission on the operation of the 1874 Factory Act; he also gave evidence. He represented the T.H.C. at the third Intercolonial Trades Union Congress held in Sydney in October 1885 where he presented a paper on the 1874 Act. Congress appointed him to the Parliamentary Committee for Victoria, of which he was first president. In 1885-86 he served on boards of conciliation for settling industrial disputes among bootmakers, wharflabourers and tinsmiths. During the 1890 maritime strike he was a member of the finance and control committee.

In March 1886 Bromley stood unsuccessfully for the Legislative Assembly seat of Collingwood. He was elected vice-president of the Progressive Political League of Victoria in December 1891 and in April next year was successful as its nominee for Carlton on a one-man one-vote platform. C. H. Pearson described him at the time as a 'thoughtful and cultivated man'. Bromley was secretary of the Parliamentary Labor Party until 1900 when he was elected leader; he resigned on 7 June 1904 because of ill health. His support of George Sangster in a scandal over using union funds without permission led to a libel case in 1903 involving H. Brodzky, editor and proprietor of Table Talk; Bromley won the case but it probably lessened his electoral appeal. He had visited New Zealand in 1902 to examine its working-class and social service legislation. He served on boards of inquiry into the working of the Factories and Shops Act of 1890 (1893-94) and into the effect of the fiscal system of Victoria (1894), chaired the life insurance inquiry board (1896) and was member of the Fisheries Commission.

Bromley was appointed a trustee of the Public Library, Museums, and Art Gallery in November 1895 and voted for their opening on Sunday afternoons. He opposed religion in education and favoured the extension of the state schools system into secondary education. A supporter of the Working Men's College, he was a councillor until 1907 and chairman in 1888-89. His work for the Carlton Refuge was well known.

Bromley died of pneumonia at his home in Carlton on 29 September 1908, predeceased by his wife and only son, and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £182.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 1884, 2 (18)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Victoria), 1908, 933-36
  • Speaker (London), 11 June 1892
  • Collingwood Mercury, Feb-Mar 1886
  • Argus (Melbourne), 7 May 1887, 2 Apr 1892
  • Daily Telegraph (Melbourne), 26 Feb 1889
  • Age (Melbourne), 2 Mar 1889, 21 Dec 1907, 30 Sept 1908
  • West Australian, 27 Mar 1903
  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 2 Apr 1903
  • Council minutes, 24 Nov 1885 (Trades Hall, Melbourne)
  • Political Labor Council (Melbourne), minutes, 18 Oct 1902, 10 June 1905 (Australian Labor Party, Victoria Branch)
  • Trades Hall Council (Melbourne), Autobiographical notes (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

N. W. Saffin, 'Bromley, Frederick Hadkinson (1854–1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/bromley-frederick-hadkinson-5370/text9085, accessed 23 November 2017.

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