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Tray that belonged to Arthur Calwell #2010-0285

Ornate silver plate tray with two handles and inscription ‘To / Honourable A. A. Calwell / In appreciation of a lifetime of service. / To / The Labour Movement and for World Peace / From / Queensland Food Group of Unions’.


This tray is part of a collection of objects that belonged to Arthur Calwell, Australia’s first Minister for Immigration (1945-49) that were donated to the museum by his daughter, Dr Mary Elizabeth Calwell.

This tray was given to Calwell by the Queensland Food Group of Unions. Although undated, it is likely to stem from the period around the time of his retirement as Leader of the Opposition in 1967. The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union has absorbed the older craft unions associated under the banner of ‘Food Unions’, but their origins go back to the earlier years of the twentieth century. Often associated with the left, such unions were strong in rural industries in Queensland, particularly in the preserving and meat processing industries.

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This tray is significant as part of the Arthur Calwell collection, which is comprised of a selection of objects that belonged to Australia’s first Minister for Immigration (1945-49), Arthur Calwell. The collection is significant as a whole because it tells a story about a leading Commonwealth parliamentarian of the middle decades of the twentieth century and includes highly personal material which tells of Calwell’s family life, his life-long involvement in Labor politics, and his personal religious convictions. The Arthur Calwell collection at the museum uniquely links the personal with the political, thus affording an opportunity to conduct research which tells a rounded story of this important parliamentarian.

This tray is significant as testimony to Calwell’s high standing in the larger Labour movement, and in particular in Queensland. This tray also links these left-oriented unions and the peace movement, giving this object added significance. Such items of material culture are rare, especially in specifically linking policy areas to the story of political leadership.


Calwell, Arthur, Be just and fear not, Victoria: Hawthorn, 1972.

Kiernan, Colm, Calwell: a personal and political biography, Melbourne: Thomas Nelson, 1978.

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Width 512mm
Height 310mm
Depth 47mm
Medium Electro-Plated Nickel Silver
Creator’s name Crusader Plate
Date created Circa 1960s