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Biographical entry Temple, David (1862 - 1921)

Creswick, Victoria
Trade Union - Official


Born in Creswick, Victoria on the 4 July 1862, David Temple began his working life as a miner and part-time shearer. Incensed by the cutting of shearing rates in April 1886, Temple travelled, at his own expense, from shed to shed organising shearers into a union which, by the end of the season, had amassed eight thousand members.

In January 1887 the small shearers' unions of Wagga Wagga and Bourke joined with Temple's predominantly Victorian union to form the Amalgamated Shearers' Union of Australasia [ASU]. Temple was elected General Secretary, W.G. Spence the President. During his time in office Temple constantly expounded the virtues of a 'union of unions', some thirty-six years prior to the formation of the ACTU. He was also an ardent advocate for establishing media with a union leaning, particularly so after the crushing defeat of the unions in the 1890 Maritime Strike. A constant target of in-house sniping, much of it initiated by W.G. Spence, Temple finally resigned his office in 1897. After being driven out of the Union, Temple started a grocery business and then later worked for the Post Master General, clearing letter boxes at night in the Footscray district until he died on the 27 September 1921. Despite overseeing the growth of the ASU into one of the largest and most powerful unions (the ASU eventually became the Australian Workers' Union) David Temple was buried without any immediate recognition from the AWU.

Published resources


  • Merritt, John, The Making of the AWU, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1986, 432 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Cameron, Clyde, 'Temple, David', in John Ritchie (ed.), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 12, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1990, pp. 191-192. Details

Journal Articles

  • Cameron, Clyde, 'A Man is Never Dead Until He Is Forgotten: David Temple, Founder of the ASU', Labour History, vol. 60, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Sydney, 1991, pp. 93-108. Details

Online Resources

  • Hearn, Mark, AWU History, Australian Workers Union, New South Wales Branch. Details

Ross G. Elford