Warning: This resource may contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away.

Australia in the 1930s

Jack Lang

In 1931, the ALP premier of New South Wales (NSW), Jack Lang, decided to withhold interest payments on British loans, in open defiance of the federal government. He argued that the federal government and other state premiers were wrong to pay foreign loans instead of funding public works, which could provide much-needed employment.

In 1932, prime minister Joseph Lyons paid the interest on the NSW government loans to the British banks, passing a Bill in parliament to later recover the money. Lang refused to repay the money, and tried to prevent the federal government from seizing NSW funds. In May the governor of NSW, Sir Philip Game, sacked Jack Lang as premier, saying Lang's 'defiance of the law' had become intolerable. Although there were fears of civil war breaking out, Lang surprised many by going quietly.

A snapshot of 1938

  • January
    • The first national conference of Indigenous Australians was held at the Australian Hall, Sydney, to mark a 'Day of Mourning' and protest during the 150th Australia Day anniversary of colonial settlement. The conference was initiated by William Cooper, founder of the Australian Aborigines League (AAL), and The Aborigines Progressive Association (APA), led by William Ferguson, and Jack Patten. Participants called for Aboriginal land and citizenship rights.

  • March
    • Xavier Herbert won the Commonwealth sesquicentennial (150 years) literary prize for his novel Capricornia.
    • Daisy Bates (1863-1951), a social worker in Aboriginal communities and an anthropologist, published her book The Passing of the Aborigines.
    • Many of Bates's views and stories were sensationalist and incorrect, and many Aboriginal people indicated ambivalence about her and her work.

  • July
    • All exports of iron ore from Australia to Japan were suspended as Japan was seen as militaristic.

  • December
    • The federal government announced that refugees from (Nazi) Germany were to be relocated in Australia.
    • A direct radio–telephone link was set up between Canberra and Washington as a sign of closer US–Australian government cooperation.
    • Albert Namatjira, an Indigenous artist, held his first exhibition of paintings in Melbourne. All 41 pieces sold within three days of the opening.


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