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A history of the Ugly Men's Voluntary Worker's

Farrell, Rita (1993) A history of the Ugly Men's Voluntary Worker's. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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In recounting the history of the Ugly Mens' Voluntary Workers' Association of Western Australia this thesis addresses several themes. It challenges the depiction of Western Australia in the inter-war period as a prosperous and consensual society. Until recently this has been the dominant construction in Western Australian historical writing. The existence of a welfare organisation of the size and scope of the Ugly Men's Association indicates that there was a greater degree of poverty and hardship experienced in Perth than had previously been acknowledged. An account of the activities of this body of voluntary workers helps bring to light the nature and the extent of that poverty.

The thesis illustrates changing community responses to poverty. The provision of charity to the poor was ceasing to be the province of the wealthy elite by the end of the nineteenth century. Comprehensive welfare programmes were not implemented by the Commonwealth government until the 1940s. The Ugly Men's Association, during that intervening period, represents an attempt by the lower middle and working classes to provide for their own welfare. The response of the upper middle class self-appointed 'moral guardians' to some of the Association's fund raising methods, however, resulted in the curtailment of those activities and ultimately the end of the Association.

The areas in which the Association sought to provide assistance incorporate some of the dominant social concerns of the inter -war period. The problems addressed by the Association - of soldiers and their dependants, newly arrived immigrants and the development of the state's rural industries - reflected the prevailing ideologies of Empire and the agrarian myth. The changing role of government in these areas is also elucidated through the study of the Ugly Men.

This thesis has retrieved from obscurity a band of voluntary workers who provided not only material relief from hardship but also a great deal of entertainment. The Ugly Men were a major force in the cultural life of Perth in the 1920s.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
United Nations SDGs: Goal 1: No Poverty
Supervisor(s): Reece, Robert
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