Foco: Student Worker Alliance in Brisbane in the late 1960s

This is a talk given by Peter Cross at a meeting of the 17 Group on 7 May 2013 about the Secretary of the Trades and labour Council, Alexander Macdonald’s role was in building links between the Trades Hall and the student movement.

From Left to Right: alex macdonald, premier ned hanlon, harry harvey, tlc pres, mick healy, tlc sec

Comrades and Friends,

Brisbane Labour History Association hopes everyone has had an enjoyable May Day/Labour Day, notwithstanding the unsuccessful attempts of the Newman LNP government to undermine this day of workers’ celebration.

The BLHA also had a successful activity on 1 May, with its annual Alex Macdonald Lecture dealing with some of the historical origins of Labour Day, and its connections with May. The meeting was well attended sparked some lively discussion, which is always pleasing.

Given the BLHA’s connection with Alex Macdonald, we thought that members may be interested in a presentation being given at the meeting of the “17 Group” at Unit 6, 20 Drury Street, West End, tomorrow night (Wednesday 8 May). The talk will be looking at the connections between the working class and student movement in the 1960s, and in particular, the role that Alex Macdonald played in fostering and supporting those connections.

Please find below then, the details of tomorrow’s presentation, for those who might be interested in attending.


Craig Buckley
Brisbane Labour History Association

The May Meeting of the 17 Group will take place on

Wednesday the 8th of May at 7 pm in unit 6 at 20 Drury St West End. The talk will be about aspects of the radical student-worker alliance in Brisbane during the late 60s. The speaker will be Peter Cross and he will be looking at the role of Communist TLC secretary Alex Macdonald in the events of those years. His topic:

“A Pillar of Support from Beginning to End’: Alexander Macdonald, FOCO, and Student-Worker Solidarity ”.

Here is Peter’s summary of his talk:

The late 1960s were a time of protest in Queensland. Issues such as Australia’s involvement in Vietnam politicised large sections of the population. A fascinating aspect of this period was how the trade union movement and the student movement began to co-operate during this time. This alliance was certainly not an inevitable one, as Trades Hall was generally suspicious of youth and of the New Left ideas which permeated student protest groups.

My talk examines how important Alexander Macdonald’s role was in building links between the Trades Hall and the student movement. In particular, I want to focus on how important his support of the Foco Club was. Based largely on oral recollections of students and CPA members of the time (most notably Alan Anderson) I argue that Macdonald’s support was vital to the success of Foco and to student/union engagement more generally. I also examine to what extent Macdonald’s actions can be understood by the allegiance to the CPA.

Short biographical details:

Starting my fifth year of study in an Arts/Law degree, with an extended major in political science
Completed a Summer Research Scholarship with the Centre for the Government of Queensland, which runs the Queensland Speaks website (associated with Danielle Miller and Roger Scott)

This presentation is a truncated version of that paper.

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