|Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function|
In the 1880's the situation of the unemployed was a regular topic of discussion in Parliament. The initial response of the Government was to direct the Minister of Public Works and the Railway Commissioners to ascertain how they could provide employment in the carrying out of their contracts.
In 1892 a Labour Bureau was established in the Public Works Department "in order to meet the great depression" and "with a view of organizing the unemployed". The Labour Bureau undertook the registration of unemployed men and distribution of available government contract work. By 1896 the Labour Bureau was located within the Railway Department. In 1900 the Labour Bureau appears to have passed back to the Public Works Department.
Around this time the Railway Department issued free railway passes and the Mines Department issued free mining licences to men looking for mining work in country areas.
In 1911 the Labour Bureau was amalgamated with the Immigration Department (otherwise known as the Intelligence Bureau). The Immigration and Labour Bureau, within the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538), administered the British immigrant nomination scheme including the provision of reception, initial settlement and employment services to British immigrants, and co-ordination of overseas promotion and emigration assistance. It also undertook the registration and placement of unemployed Victorian workers although the Hansard for 1912 indicates that the placement of immigrants may have been given a higher priority.
In 1918 responsibility for the functions of the Immigration and Labour Bureau passed from the Minister for Lands (VRG 18) to the Minister for Labour (VRG 42) and hence to the administration of the Department of Labour I (VA 2874). Responsibility for immigration passed to the Minister of Immigration I (VRG 44) in 1923.
From 1923 a Labour Exchange continued under the administration of the Minister of Labour. The Labour Exchange undertook the registration of unemployed persons for temporary or casual employment, principally as artisans and labourers, on Government works. The Exchange also undertook to supply workmen for employment and advanced railway tickets to applicants who themselves obtained employment in country districts.
The Government Labour Exchange closed in March 1942. It is evident that from this time the Commonwealth Manpower authorities assumed responsibility for employment as part of its wartime administration. Officers of the Labour Exchange transferred to the Commonwealth National Service Offices.