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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Thomas Joseph (Tom) Dowling (1897–1970)

This entry is from Obituaries Australia

An outstanding example of a communist worker who become a living legend in the defence of the people in his local community was Tom Dowling, of Balmain, who died two weeks ago after long illness.

Tom, who was 72, worked in his early years in the hard, backbreaking, unhealthy toil of quarrying in central western New South Wales. As a teenager in World War I he took a job with stockmen on a shipload of horses to India. What he saw of the conditions of the people there and at Middle East ports shocked him into realising the evils of the imperialist system responsible for their exploitation and suffering.

Some years later he joined the Communist Party. In World War II he became a waterside worker at Port Kembla and then, moving to the port of Sydney, became well known and respected as a militant job delegate who played a valuable part with other wharfie communists in developing the great struggle of solidarity with the Indonesian anti-imperialist revolution in 1945-46.

As a resident of Balmain, then a solid community of workers' families exploited by landlord owners of old housing, Tom overcame the difficulties of having only limited schooling to study and master the Landlord and Tenant Act and other legislation relating to housing. He became known throughout Balmain and, through the pages of Tribune, throughout Australia — as militant courtroom defender of workers threatened with eviction and rent disputes.

On the basis of this and other work around the needs of the people, Tom became CPA candidate in local government elections over a number of years and, though he never succeeded in being elected, built up an electoral following of many thousands. He was a fearless and self-sacrificing campaigner and was more than once beaten up by police in a way that aggravated the bad health that afflicted him in later years, but never diminished his loyalty as a conscientious party member.

Tribune extends deep sympathy to his wife, Hilda, and his children, Pat and Joan. — A.R.

Original Publication

Additional Resources

  • profile, Tribune (Sydney), 19 November 1949, p 3

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Dowling, Thomas Joseph (Tom) (1897–1970)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012