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Thomas George (Tom) Davies (1898–1980)

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This entry is from People Australia

Thomas George (Tom) Davies (1898-1980) trade union official, Labor Party State secretary, arbitration court member 

Birth: 15 March 1898 at Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales, son of George Thomas Davies (1871-1950), labourer, and Ann, née Cater (1873-1915). Marriage: 4 July 1934 at the Baptist Church, West Leederville, Western Australia, to Una Holly (1906-1978), a bank clerk, later civil servant and active unionist, who was born in Blaina Monmouthshire, Wales. They had no children. Death: 25 June 1980 in hospital at Nedlands, Perth, Western Australia. Cremation rites: The Seeker’s Christian Fellowship

  • As a child, Davies distributed literature for the Independent Labour Party in Wales. He began work as a clerk at 13 later joining the engineering section of the railways.
  • Served in the “Imperial Army in World War I”.
  • Arriving in Western Australia in 1924, Davies was foundation president of the Claremont Branch of the Australian Labor Party. Commencing work in the food manufacturing industry, Davies soon became a union official and, as was the practice, served as paid secretary for several smaller unions.
  • For six years, he was State secretary of the Coachbuilders Union, during which time as industrial advocate he was able to obtain a 44-hour week for the union. He was secretary of the Food Preservers Union from 1928 to 1939, and also was an organiser for the Laundry Workers Union.
  • He served as a workers’ advocate in the Arbitration Court for several unions, and held offices in the State ALP, including President of the Metropolitan District Council (1939), State executive member, and State delegate to the Federal Executive.
  • With his wife he lived in the beachside suburb of Cottesloe. General Secretary of the ALP (WA Branch) from 1941 to 1949. As WA campaign director, he ran the 1943 Federal election, including assisting party members to avoid censorship when campaigning on the radio. The Curtin Government was returned with a large majority. Davies attributed this ‘unprecedented triumph for Labor’ to Curtin’s ‘outstanding character’, the Federal Government’s wartime record and its introduction of new social security legislation including widows’ pensions. When Curtin died in July 1945, Davies wrote a moving tribute to, ‘a great man [whose memory] will live so long as Australian history endures’, who was also ‘a mate ever to be remembered’.
  • After World War II the State Government funded a large-scale public works program which increased employment. In 1946, as union advocate in the Arbitration Court, Davies secured another rise in the Basic Wage and an increase in the number of annual paid public holidays. Yet militant unionists objected to the Government’s handling of several industrial disputes, including the 1946 strike of Aboriginal pastoral workers in the Pilbara. The Federal AWU Pastoral Workers Award was one of only five awards that applied to Aboriginal workers, yet the AWU in Western Australia refused them membership. As an advocate in the Arbitration Court, Davies would have been aware of this exclusion, yet he showed little sympathy for the strikers, when he wrote: ‘[T]here is nothing to prevent natives enjoying the benefits of an award in the industry in which they are employed, or becoming members of those Unions who are parties to such awards.’
  • Davies directed the 1947 State election campaign, which saw the end of 14 years of Labor government in Western Australia. In summing up the 1947 electoral defeat, Davies stated that thousands of workers, including government employees, had voted against ALP candidates, and the lack of financial support from the unions was a decisive factor in the result..
  • In 1949 Davies resigned as State Secretary to become full-time Workers’ Advocate on the Arbitration Bench. He continued to serve as a member of the Arbitration Court until his retirement. He became a member of the University of Western Australia Senate in 1950 and President of the Fabian Society of WA in 1960. His wife died at Cottesloe on 25 June 1978.
  • Cause of death: cardiogenic shock, myocardial infarction, anaemia, melena from Warfarin pulmonary infarction, pulmonary embolus from deep vein thrombosis.

Westralian Worker,
28 March, p 8 [biographical details]:;18 September, 27 October and 21 November 1941, p1 [photo]:; ALP State Executive Correspondence files 1719A/17/3, 1719A/19/1, and Fremantle District Council (ALP) Papers, 1802/63, J.S. Battye Library; J.A. Alexander, ed., Who’s Who in Australia, 1962,p. 230; Information from Andrew Gill.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Davies, Thomas George (Tom) (1898–1980)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 May 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Tom Davies, 1944

Tom Davies, 1944

Mirror (Perth) 26 August 1944, p 1

Life Summary [details]


15 March, 1898
Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales


25 June, 1980 (aged 82)
Nedlands, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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