Labor and Cornish tradition in SA

payton place
Flinders historian Professor Philip Payton.

A new and distinctive account of the Labor movement in South Australia sheds new light on the origins of the Labor Party in our state.

One and All: Labor and the Radical Tradition in South Australia, by Flinders University Professor Philip Payton, is a vivid and engaging study of how the many thousands of Cornish emigrants who came to the newly established colony in the 19th century brought their way of life with them, laying the foundations for early trade unionism and an emergent Labor Party.

Representation in the South Australian Parliament paid its dues when in 1910 the former copper miner John Verran became Premier, leading South Australia’s – and the world’s – very first social democratic Labor government, Professor Payton says.

“The Cornish played a significant role in moulding South Australia’s own radical tradition, their lasting influence detectable in the Labor movement until after the Second World War, and even beyond.

“Their vision for equality and social justice had a profound influence on Don Dunstan and still resonates today.”

The book, commissioned by the Don Dunstan Foundation and published by Wakefield Press, was launched by the Premier, Jay Weatherill, in the Old Chamber, Parliament House this month.

“This important book – One and All: Labor and the Radical Tradition in South Australia – reminds us of our political heritage and the remarkable way in which everyday workers have advanced the common good and made our state a better place to live,” Mr Weatherill said.

“The Cornish miners of the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula made an overwhelmingly positive and disproportionately large contribution to our civic and political culture, and we South Australians – and especially the ALP of the post-war period – remain in their debt.”

Professor of History Philip Payton is Emeritus Professor of Cornish and Australian Studies at the University of Exeter.

He is a specialist in Cornish history with nearly 50 books to his name, including Making Moonta: The Invention of Australia’s Little Cornwall and Regional Australia and the Great War: The Boys from Old Kio.

Professor Payton thanked the Don Dunstan Foundation and the Premier for the opportunity to put this account of SA’s unique history on the record.

The Don Dunstan Foundation is a charitable trust that works with its university partners, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University, to gain a deeper understanding of social justice issues and to share these understandings with the greater community to influence change.

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