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Alexander John (Alex) Dowling (1900–1991)

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This entry is from People Australia

Alexander John (Alex) Dowling (1900-1991) printer, Labor party activist, Communist and trade union leader

Birth: 15 April 1900 at Stawell, Victoria, son of native-born parents Wilkie Dowling (1868-1935), labourer, and Janet, née McQuilkan (1878-1949). Marriage: 1923 at Narrabri, New South Wales, to native-born Clare Wild (1907-1994). They had two daughters and one son. Death: 26 September 1991 at Newcastle, NSW.

  • To New Zealand at age of one with his parents. Served apprenticeship as compositor in New Zealand. Joined Typographical Union at Masterton in 1918.
  • Returned to Australia in 1921, working on various newspapers, including at Narrabri. Joined Printing Industry Employees Union of Australia (PIEUA), becoming a union delegate. After marriage, returned to New Zealand.
  • Later settled in Coogee, NSW. Joined State (Lang) Labor Party, then Australian Labor Party. Unemployed for three years in Sydney.
  • Moved with family to Newcastle in 1935, joining Newcastle Sun as linotype operator and later proof-reader with Newcastle Morning Herald. Elected sub-branch secretary of Newcastle PIEUA, 1947-1966. Prominent in 1945 commercial printing strike for 44-hour week. Long-time secretary of the Newcastle chapter of PIEUA.
  • Delegate to Newcastle Trades Hall Council in late 1930s. Secretary of Newcastle Trades Hall Council from 1947 to 1969 (retired). Founding president of NTHC Workers’ Club in 1947 and helped the club purchase the Trades Hall building.
  • Active in ALP but resigned during the coal strike in 1949 and joined the Communist Party of Australia. Successfully resisted Industrial Group bid to take control of NTHC in early 1950s, winning narrowly in a court-controlled ballot.
  • Lead Australian delegation to Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China and World People's Congress for Peace in Vienna, Austria, in 1952.
  • Assisted in exposing poor health conditions in the Collarenebri Aboriginal community, NSW.
  • Life member, Newcastle Trades Hall. Played major role in establishment of Newcastle University.
  • In retirement held honorary roles, including editor, with pensioner paper, 'The Clarion', the Newcastle Workers' Club Journal 'News', and the Cardiff Workers Club journal. Wrote a trade union history (unpublished).

photo and interview Tribune (Sydney), 5 February 1969, p 3; Sydney Morning Herald, 27 September 1991; Eulogy by Darrell Dawson, at Beresfield Crematorium Meighans Funerals, 27 September 1991, pp.1-10; B. Phillips, 'The Red Inn' in The First 50 Years of Newcastle Workers Club, pp 50-52.

Additional Resources

  • interview, Tribune (Sydney), 5 February 1969, p 3

Citation details

'Dowling, Alexander John (Alex) (1900–1991)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Alexander Dowling, 1969

Alexander Dowling, 1969

Tribune (Sydney), 5 February 1969, p 3

Life Summary [details]


15 April, 1900
Stawell, Victoria, Australia


26 September, 1991 (aged 91)
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

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