Rescuing the artefacts of political activism
In November last year, I blogged about an old bottle of port—an empty bottle, I hasten to add! —which I donated to the museum. The bottle was about 35 years old and had been part of an ALP branch fundraising campaign in Brunswick, Melbourne. The label on the bottle read: ‘Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Port’. My article advocated the preservation of such artefacts of participatory democracy and briefly discussed what we might learn from them, in terms of the culture of branch-based party activism.
Arising from that report about a bottle, the museum received a donation of three other political campaign bottles, and has been notified by readers of their own bottle collections at home. The donation of three bottles came from John Warhurst, Emeritus Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations at the Australian National University, who read and commented on the blog.
The donation consists of a wine bottle featuring the ‘Kevin07’ logo and a cartoon of Kevin Rudd drawn by Jon Kudelka, another produced by the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) with custom label showing an Ian Sharpe cartoon of a kangaroo leaping over a crown with the caption ‘I’m over it’, and a third bearing a customised label for the Australian Democrats’ 25th anniversary in 2002.
My original blog received 40 comments, including one from ‘Katemoore’ who said that ‘it brings back lots of memories for me… And it is inspiring me to clean out my cupboards and to search for memorabilia I can donate to the collection’. Another reader, ‘Seamus’, commented: ‘I came across a $5 bottle of John Kerin ‘Red under the Bed’ from the 70s in the Southern Highlands a little while ago in my shed’.
Of special value were comments posted by individuals who have been active in fundraising in party branches. ‘Susan’ wrote:
After years of being on ALP Branch executives I have studiously avoided organising a grog fundraiser because they took heaps of time…firstly the function where you do the bottling and tasting….next getting in the orders and then extricating the money upfront…then organising the pick up or delivery…..Barry’s bottle reminds me of the old days of fundraising…probably the days before political parties attracted such vast sums based on the number of votes they get…
Kelvin Thomson (MP for Wills) sent in a thought-provoking comment:
There isn’t much local or home grown fundraising now, corporate donations are a much quicker way to raise funds, though the impact of campaign donations to political parties from property developers, mining companies etc on policy is undesirable, to put it mildly.
Mr. Thomson also recalled the importance of wine-bottling:
…the selling and raffling of port was indeed a Wills Labor Party fundraising staple in the 1980s … The late Murray Gavin, four time Mayor of the City of Coburg, was so successful with this enterprise that I once visited the cellars of All Saints, who produced the port, to find Murray had his own workshop set up there and that demand for the product was altering All Saints production schedule.
In your shed or cupboards, or up in the ceiling with all that accumulated old stuff, do you have artefacts and memorabilia of relevance to the campaign activist dimension of Australian democracy?
Let us know! Email Senior Historian Libby Stewart or phone: 6270 8231.