Maurice McCrae Blackburn (19 November 1880 – 31 March 1944)[1] was an Australian politician and socialist lawyer, noted for his protection of the interests of workers and the establishment of the legal firm known as Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

Maurice Blackburn
Member of the Australian Parliament for Bourke
In office
15 September 1934 – 7 July 1943
Preceded byFrank Anstey
Succeeded byBill Bryson
16th Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Assembly
In office
11 October 1933 – 1 August 1934
DeputyWilliam Everard
Preceded byAlexander Peacock
Succeeded byWilliam Everard
Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly for Clifton Hill
In office
9 April 1927 – 1 August 1934
Preceded byElectorate established
Succeeded byBert Cremean
Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly for Fitzroy
In office
4 February 1925 – 4 March 1927
Preceded byJohn Billson
Succeeded byElectorate abolished
Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly for Essendon
In office
26 November 1914 – 24 October 1917
Preceded byWilliam Watt
Succeeded byThomas Ryan
Personal details
Born(1880-11-19)19 November 1880
Inglewood, Victoria Colony, British Empire
Died31 March 1944(1944-03-31) (aged 63)
Prahran, Victoria, Australia
Cause of deathCerebral tumour
Resting placeBox Hill Cemetery
Political party
Other political
Victorian Socialist Party
(m. 1914⁠–⁠1944)
Parent(s)Maurice Blackburn Sr.
Thomasann McCrae
EducationMelbourne Grammar School
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne (BA, LLB)
  • Lawyer
  • Politician

Early life edit

Blackburn was born on 19 November 1880 in Inglewood, Victoria. He was the son of Thomasann Cole (née McCrae) and Maurice Blackburn. His father, a bank manager, was the son of architect James Blackburn.[1]

Following the death of his father in 1887, Blackburn and his mother moved to Melbourne where he was educated at Melbourne Grammar School, matriculating in 1896. He attended the University of Melbourne, graduating in arts and law in 1909, and began to practise as a lawyer a year later. In the same year, he also became a member of the Victorian Socialist Party and was soon editing its newspaper, The Socialist. Later, in about 1908, he joined the Australian Labor Party.[1]

Legal career edit

Blackburn established the firm Maurice Blackburn & Co. in 1919, dealing primarily in trade union law and civil liberties cases.[2]

During his time practising law, Blackburn won cases that played a key role in establishing rights most Australians now take for granted, including the 40-hour working week, wage equality for indigenous workers, and equal pay for women.[3][better source needed]

In late 1934 and early 1935, Blackburn acted as legal counsel to prevent the deportation of the noted Czech anti-Fascist Egon Kisch.[1]

State politics edit

Blackburn entered the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1914 as the Labor member for the Electoral district of Essendon, but lost his seat in 1917, due largely to his strong anti-war and anti-conscription stances.

Blackburn made his mark on Australian politics in 1921 when he led a successful move to have the socialisation of the means of production added to Labor's official platform (which became known as the "socialist objective"). Returning to state Parliament as the member for Fitzroy in a 1925 by-election, Blackburn introduced legislation aimed at removing discrimination against women, and opposed what he saw as repressive economic measures proposed during the depression. In 1933, he was elected Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Assembly.

Federal politics edit

Blackburn resigned from the Assembly in 1934,[4] so he could contest the Federal seat of Bourke, based on the suburbs of Brunswick and Coburg in Melbourne. Although he won Bourke and held it until 1943, his relationship with the Labor Party was chequered.[5]

In October 1935, he voted in favour of sanctions against Italy over the Abyssinian crisis, defying his leader John Curtin.[1]

Blackburn's support for international socialism, and his opposition to conscription,[6] frequently caused him to take positions opposed to Labor policy and, in October 1935, he was expelled over his membership of the Movement Against War and Fascism.[1] He was re-admitted to the ALP on 27 March 1937 following a vote at the party's annual conference.[7]

Blackburn was again expelled from the ALP in 1941 for his support of the Australia-Soviet Friendship League.[1] His expulsion was seen as a warning to other left-wing MPs that violation of party policy was not to be tolerated. Blackburn continued to serve as the member for Bourke as an independent, voting against the Labor government's conscription bill, but he lost his seat at the 1943 election to the official Labor candidate.[1]

Personal life edit

Blackburn married Doris Amelia Hordern on 10 December 1914.[8]

Blackburn died of cerebral tumour on 31 March 1944,[1] in Prahran, Victoria, and was buried in Box Hill Cemetery, survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter, and his mother. His estate, which included a fine library, was sworn for probate at £2,552.[1] In a eulogy, Australian Prime Minister John Curtin referred to Blackburn as "one of the great servants of the people of the Commonwealth of Australia".[9] His widow, Doris, won Bourke as an Independent Labour candidate at the 1946 election and spent much of her time in Parliament promoting similar policies to those that Blackburn had supported.[8]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Blackburn Abeyasekere, Susan (1979). "Blackburn, Maurice McCrae (1880–1944)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  2. ^ Day, David (2019), Maurice Blackburn : champion of the people, Scribe, ISBN 978-1-925713-78-7
  3. ^ "About Maurice Blackburn Lawyers | Australian compensation law firm".
  4. ^ "Maurice McCrae Blackburn". Re-Member: a database of all Victorian MPs since 1851. Parliament of Victoria. Archived from the original on 23 April 2023. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  5. ^ Blackburn, Susan; Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (1969), Maurice Blackburn and the Australian Labor Party, 1934-1943 : a study of principle in politics, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, retrieved 8 March 2020
  6. ^ McKellar, John (1945), "Maurice Blackburn and the struggle for freedom", The Anti-conscription Campaign, retrieved 8 March 2020
  7. ^ "Blackburn Back in Labor Party". The Sun. Sydney. 28 March 1937.
  8. ^ a b Rasmussen, Carolyn (1993). "Blackburn, Doris Amelia (1889–1970)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  9. ^ Hawke, Robert. "Speech by the Prime Minister: inaugural Maurice Blackburn Memorial Lecture". Archived from the original on 23 June 2015. Retrieved 23 June 2015.

External links edit


Victorian Legislative Assembly
Preceded by Member for Essendon
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member for Fitzroy
District abolished
District created Member for Clifton Hill
Succeeded by
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by Member for Bourke
Succeeded by