A The Stock Market crash of 1929
The 1920s had been a decade of growth, spending and borrowing. When the New York stock market crashed in October 1929, the effects on countries with big debts was devestating. This included Australia, where governments and industry had borrowed heavily and now saw their investments declining in value.
external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTvxCX0hCDK-1EgtHKC3cD_-hDPaproi33WP-Qjo4UJPW-ll_KbsA
Watch crashcourse - for advanced discussion. Here is a video showing how the boom of the 20s led to the crash - beginning with the NY Stock Market.
You can read more here

B The experiences of the unemployed

Children line up fro a free issue of soup and bread during the Depression c.1932 Courtesy State Library of NSW
Children line up fro a free issue of soup and bread during the Depression c.1932 Courtesy State Library of NSW

When the economy crashed, the working classes were the most directly affected. Falling prices for primary resources - coal, wheat, wool etc - and for manufactured goods, meant businesses had to fire people to cut back costs. Unemployment steadily rose until it reached a peak in 1932 when 29% were unemployed. Wages were also cut, and many families now had extra people to provide for as more lost their jobs. This was a time of great hardship for many.

Do you know any stories about how your great-grandparents coped at this time?

Using the links on this page, create your own notes with photographs to explain and desribe the experiences of the poor and unemployed in the 1930s. OVERVIEW
Use these headings:
  • What did the government do to help? Very little - a man had to prove he was destitute in order to receive a 'sustenance payment'
    Workers constructing the Boulevard (Susso Drive)
    Workers constructing the Boulevard (Susso Drive)
-"the susso", but this was not $$$, but a coupon to exchange for groceries; it did not cover rent or rates or clothes. The destitute could apply for 'work for the dole' schemes, but it was temporary, limited and involved tough restrictions.
  • What difficulties did the unemployed and poor have to face?
-eviction, health problems, child workers, poor diet, queuing for the dole and for work. Look here.
Watch footage about the "susso kids" - what do these sources show about their hardships?
  • How did people manage?
-"Happy Valley", "jumping the rattler", "making-do", cheap entertainment...look at these photographs
  • How did the community help?
- soup kitchens, charity groups like 'Vinnies' and the Salvation Army, Hammondville, [and here 7 30 report on Canon Hammond] some trade unions,

Watch a great selection of videos both about and from the Depression here
The Great Depression meant a slow down in film making, and many that were made focused on comedy or light entertainment, as film going was still a cheap way to escape one's troubles. See some examples here.

C. Responses to the Great Depression - "what are we to do?"

There was much debate about how to respond to massive unemployment and the downturn in the economy. Australian Federal and State governments believed the best idea was to cut spending, cut wages and pay back the debts to foregn banks. The Bank of England sent out a special envoy to encourage Australians on the importance of "austerity" and paying back debt!

The idea was for business to slowly crawl back and then start re-employing. Meanwhile even more jobs were going as businesses cut back - or closed.

One state premier had another idea - Jack Lang. He had the radical idea of increasing spending to try and stimulate the economy and keep businesses going and so reduce unemployment. He wanted to cut back on loan repayments and was not so worried about the growing debt. His views were seen as being so radical that he was eventually sacked.

*back to Year 9 History