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Government work for the unemployed

On 22 September 1857, the Ballarat Star reported on a Government scheme for the employment of ‘idle hands’ in Melbourne.

22 September 1857
Published Source
Ballarat Star, 23 September 1857. Details


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GOVERNMENT WORK FOR THE UNEMPLOYED. - The Government scheme for the employment of idle hands was inaugurated yesterday morning. At the Railway Department, a clerk was in attendance to receive applications for work at six o’clock in the morning. From seven to nine, applicants dropped in, and were at once provided with implements, and set to work. Many came between nine and one, and were engaged till evening at proportionate rates. At two o’clock, about four hundred persons were hard at work. Meanwhile workmen were busied in the making of barrows, and the preparation of picks, shovels, &c. Some specimens of the genus “loafer” were at the works during the day, vainly endeavouring to dissuade those employed to abandon their work on account of the terms proposed – ten hours labour for six shillings. Necessity proved the stronger argument, and they remained doing their duty. It is expected that some three hundred extra hands will be employed today. At the dinner hour yesterday the majority of the poor fellows engaged on the works, instead of going to dinner, laid down their picks and shovels and rested on the ground in lieu of their mid-day repast! The fact was the poor fellows were unable to purchase food. We learn that men were to be employed all night in the preparation of tools for the employment of extra hands today. At four o’clock, a deputation of the Working Men’s Association having visited the ground upon which the unemployed were offered work by the Government, then proceeded to the Office of Public Works, and not finding Mr. Moore, waited upon him at Government House. He was then engaged at a Council of the Executive, from which he retired to receive the deputation, who informed him that the object of their coming was to ascertain whether the Government intended to keep the promise given on the previous Thursday, to employ all who presented themselves. They had taken this step in consequence of having ascertained that upwards of one thousand men had been refused work by the Government. Mr Moore denied that he had made such a promise, and replied that the Government had done all they intended, and moreover, that the employment given would only be of a temporary nature, and that he did not anticipate that there existed such numbers of unemployed, and that the Government were not prepared to take any further steps in the matter. At a late period of the evening we learned that the Government would be in a position today to employ one hundred additional hands on Batman’s Hill, one hundred and fifty on the Public Works Department, and two hundred on Mr Campbell’s contract at the Footscray portion of the Williamstown Railway. – Age.