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William Guthrie Spence


1846 - 1926

Trade union leader. Born in Eday (Orkney), Spence move with his family to Australia in 1852. As a boy he was employed there as a shepherd and then worked in the goldfields of Victoria. He organised a Miner's Union at Ballarat in 1874. An enthusiast for strength in numbers, he encouraged the amalgamation of smaller local unions. By 1882 he was elected Secretary of the Amalgamated Miners' Association of Victoria, which became the Amalgamated Miners' of Australia in 1884. Spence then became the founding President of the Amalgamated Shearers' Union of Australia, bringing this together with the General Labourers' Union and others to form the Australian Workers' Union in 1894.

In 1898 he was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, where he lobbied for the Federation of Australian States, which came about three years later. He resigned following the Conscription debate of 1916.

After 74 years lying in an unmarked grave, Spence was given an appropriate memorial in Preston Cemetery (Victoria, Australia).


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