By Taylor Daniells
The Victorian Police strike of 1923 was a one of the most remarkably strange and dangerous strikes Victoria has ever seen, not to mention the only strike by policemen in the history of Australia! This strike induced terrible, public riots throughout the streets of Melbourne. Senseless violence made these riots all the more extraordinary, along with the reports that some officers actually began to attack one another, some even making use of their firearms! It lasted a total of 6 days, before order was finally restored, but during this time, 636 policeman were lost. Due to the lack of police officers around town, the streets of Melbourne became the perfect place for theft and riots. Many mobs ran the streets, harming others and damaging a lot of personal property, in fact, 3 people were killed! Due to this, the government was forced to recruit a ‘Special Constabulary Force’ of around 2,000 people, and these were the people that filled the space left vacant by the rioting policemen.
The main cause of all of this: tense relationships among police officers and the government due to the deterioration of police pensions over 20 years ago, poor pay and working conditions, and a system of supervision enforced by Chief Commissioner Nicholson, of whom the staff had very little respect for. It was assumed widely among the police department and community that the Chief had only been given this role due to the close relationship he maintained with the Chief Secretary of the Victorian Parliament. Most people believed that Chief Nicholson didn’t REALLY have any true regional policing experience, making this rumour all the more believable in their eyes.
The people involved in this strike had planned the time perfectly, on a night they believed that both the Chief Commissioner and the Victorian Government would HAVE to bow down to their requests. So the strike began on the 31st of October, 1923. The night before Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival. The strike was led by Constable William Thomas Brooks, who was a member of the licensing squad. A mere 2 years ago he had began a petition stating that better conditions needed to be provided for himself and