Albert Monk: a lifetime of unionism

Today we are remembering Albert Monk, who served as both Secretary and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in his long career advocating for working people.

Albert was born on 16 September 1900 in England, and he migrated to Australia with his family when he was about 10 years old.

After finishing his schooling Albert went onto the Business College, and became highly skilled in shorthand writing.

In the age before mobile phones and before laptops this meant he could take down detailed notes in real-time during meetings.

In 1919 he was hired as a clerk by the Carters’ and Drivers’ Union, and his hard work and dedication saw him transfer to the staff of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council in 1924.

His skill at shorthand helped him to become the minute secretary during the 1927 conference where the ACTU was founded. So he was there from the very beginning.

In 1929 the Great Depression began, and Albert became increasingly prominent as a union leader, including acting as the secretary of the Trades Hall Council’s Unemployment Committee, where he advocated for unemployed workers.

By the mid-1930s he had become Secretary of the Trades Hall Council, President of the ACTU, and at the same time he was working for the Federated Clerks’ Union – he liked to keep busy!

In 1943 Albert dedicated himself full-time to the position of ACTU Secretary, and he worked closely with the Curtin government to support the war effort.

In the post-war years, he was a dedicated supporter of the policy of full employment, and he worked with the government to make sure the economy kept growing, and importantly, that the prosperity of the time was being shared with working people.

He also became a staunch supporter of the mass program of postwar migration, including joining the Immigration Advisory Council.

In 1949 he became ACTU President, again, and served in the post for twenty years.

In that time, unions grew to a record peak density, developed direct relationships with government and were able to influence policy, as well as winning substantial new rights for working people.

Albert Monk retired from the ACTU Presidency in 1969, and passed away in 1975.

The eulogy at his funeral was delivered by his successor as ACTU President – Bob Hawke.  

Today, we remember the long contribution of Albert Monk to our movement.

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