National Heritage Places - The Tree of Knowledge
The site of the 150-year-old, 10-metre Ghost Gum located in the centre of Barcaldine in central west Queensland is a symbol of an important time in Australia's political development. It was used as the meeting place for shearers during their unsuccessful strike of 1891. During that strike, as well as the maritime strike of 1890, a crucial and historical connection was forged between unions and what was to become the Australian Labor Party. In April 2006 the Tree of Knowledge was poisoned and did not recover. It was felled on 29 July 2007 but the site remains an important place of National Heritage.
The Tree of Knowledge was included in the National Heritage List on 26 January 2006.
The linking of May Day with Labour Day in Queensland began in Barcaldine on 1 May 1891, when striking shearers and bush workers marched through the streets. The strike was broken five days later on 6 May 1891, when the colonial administration, with the backing of the New South Wales and Queensland governments, ordered the arrest of the shearers' leaders on a number of charges, including sedition and conspiracy. Thirteen ringleaders were found guilty of conspiracy on 20 May 1891 at Rockhampton, and sentenced to three years hard labour in the gaol on Saint Helena Island in Moreton Bay.
Forming the Australian Labor Party
The strike committee issued its final manifesto on 20 June 1891, calling for unionists to register on the electoral rolls. As a result of losing the strike, the unions and others in Queensland formed Labour Electoral Leagues, which later became the Labour Party and eventually the Australian Labor Party.
Representation for labour in the Queensland Government
The formation of the Labour Electoral Leagues led to the election in 1892, in Queensland, of a shearer, T.J. Ryan, who became the first 'Labour' representative in any government, anywhere in the world.
Symbol of the role of unions in the bush
The Tree of Knowledge symbolised the culmination in Queensland of social tensions that, by the 1880s, were widespread in the pastoral districts of the eastern colonies. The attitudes of squatters and property owners, the introduction of mechanical shearing and the influence of labour unions all played a part.
In April 2006 the Tree of Knowledge was poisoned and did not recover. However the site will always remain an important place of National Heritage.