Papers of Alfred William Foster
Creator: Foster, Alfred W. (Alfred William), 1886-1962
Title: Papers of Alfred William Foster
Date range: 1935-1962
Reference number: MS 805
Extent: 9 folders
Available for reference
The collection was donated to the Library by Mrs Moore, an associate to
Justice Foster, in 1963.
The papers comprise Alfred William Foster's notes and memoranda
(1942-44) concerning the manpower situation and Women's Employment Board; texts
of his addresses to various bodies (1935-61); bound volumes of Women's
Employment Board decision and indexes (1942-47).
There is also a copy of the Special Session 4 December 1962 of the
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission held in tribute to the
memory of Foster.
Alfred William Foster was born on 28 July 1886 in Beechworth, Victoria.
He was educated at Beechworth College and the University of Melbourne where he
studied Law. Foster was admitted to the Bar in 1908.
Foster was a judge at the County Court of Victoria from 1927 until 1944
and chairman of the wartime Women's Employment Board (1942-44), where he set
the wages, hours and conditions for more than 70,000 women. In 1944-56 he was
judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and in 1956-62 Deputy President of
the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
Foster was senior vice-president of the Victorian Branch of the
Australian Labor Party and unsuccessfully contested the seats of Balaclava
(1917) and Fawkner (1922 and 1925) as a Labor candidate. He was also
vice-president of the Trades Hall Council and a member of the Australian
Institute of International Affairs.
Foster died in Sandringham, Melbourne on 26 November 1962.
Who's who in Australia, 1962
Australian dictionary of biography (vo.l 8)
Series 1 Women's Employment Board
1. Memorandum to the Director-General of Manpower (Melbourne Branch) by
C.M. Toop, Secretary (Women's Employment Board), 11 May 1943 (21pp.,
The first page is headed 'Chairman' and is marked '1' in blue. The
memorandum is a reply to communication to the Chairman of the Board of 13
April. Includes a covering letter (4pp.) and an attached list giving
information under each industry on Classification, Probationary period,
Probation / or interim rate , Final rate, Remarks (17pp)
2. Information requested by the Board of Economic Warfare on the
manpower situation in Australia, no date (9pp., typescript)
The first page is headed 'Chairman', is marked '2' in blue and states
"The following information was requested of the Secretary, Women's Employment
Board." The typescript contains an outline of the history of wage fixation in
Australia from the Harvester Award (1907), especially in relation to women.
There is mention of attitude of the Australia Labor Party and Trade Union
Movement and the question of the extension of employment for women and its
repercussions. There is also background information on the establishment of the
Women's Employment Board (W.E.B.), criteria of W.E.B., limitations to its
action and rules for assessing relative productivity of females. Also includes
a list of male occupations and comparative productivity of females.
3. Untitled typescript, no date (end of 1944 or early 1945) (11 pp.)
The typescript is marked '3'in red and contains: a brief description of
the Board and its personnel; an outline of the industrial background to the
appointment of the Board and women's employment; a table of civilian females in
occupational orders for 1933 and 1943; and a table of Women in Services at 30
September 1944. There are also comments on the activities of the Board,
criticisms, achievements, the limitations set by Regulations and difficulties
arising from these, some of which were gradually cleared up by the High Court.
The Board's work "practically finished when almost all females within the
Regulations had been dealt with at the end of 1944. What remained to be done
was passed over to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court which now administers the
Regulations". Also includes some comments on the effectiveness of female labour
and possible future effect on the Board's activities.
4. Women's Employment Board. Report by workers' representatives on the
work of the Board by A.R. Wallis, A.W. Henderson, members of the Board, no date
(probably May, 1943) (5pp., roneoed).
Marked in blue, "4". Contains an outline of the history of the Board
and difficulties as to its legality. Also relates to a Writ brought against the
Board in the High Court, the suspension of sittings and the promulgation of
5. A brief account of the activities of the Women's Employment Board, 8
June 1943 (8pp., typescript)
The report, possibly by Foster, contains an outline of the appointment
of the Board and the disallowing of Regulations by the Senate. Includes comment
on the Women's Employment Act, assented 6 October 1942; legal difficulties;
High Court action; the suspension of sittings, 7 May 1943 and includes list of
industries into which Board has permitted the introduction of females.
6. The Women's Employment Board a national emergency man power
scheme, no date (3pp.. typescript)
Page one is headed "Chairman". The report is limited to the reasons for
establishment of the Board.
7. Women's Employment Board. (W.E.B) Judgements
Three quarto, spring back, volumes: marked "Judge Foster".
Vol. 1, Decisions 1 to 149. Typescript index, 37 pp.
Vol. 2, Decisions 150 to 299.
Vol. 3, Decisions 300 to 468 (see below)
Decisions are printed and headed "Not for Sale" and may be divided into
(a). National Security (Employment of Women) Regulations. The Women's
Employment Board: W.E.B 1 (22 June 1942) WEB 32 (23 September 1942).
(b). Women's Employment Act 1942. The Women's Employment Board: W.E.B.
33 (19 November 1942) W.E.B. 382 (9 October 1944)
(c). Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Women's
Employment Act, 1942: W.E.B. 383 (1 November 1944) - 468 (3 October 1947) Also
possibly 499 and 500 (4 December 1947)
Series 2. Addresses and other papers
1. Notes for an address entitled 'Can arbitration succeed?' delivered to
the Legacy Club (Melbourne), 15 May 1956 and related correspondence.
2. Newspaper cutting from The Sentinel, p.5, no date (probably
1945). Report of an address by Foster at the grave of Maurice Blackburn (first
3. Notes on Foster's address to the Constitutional Club, 13 October 1947
(typescript, 3pp. and manuscript draft, 4pp.)
4. Election pamphlet (4pp.) on the Balaclava Federal Election, 5 May
1917 in support of the election of Alfred W. Foster, selected Labor
5. Typed letter (signed) by Rev. Irving Benson to Foster, 3 January
1956. Also typescript of 'Can arbitration work?', (13pp., with manuscript
6. Typescript (31 pp., with manuscript alterations) on 'What life means
to me'. Also related correspondence from N.D. Anderson, Director of Classes,
Council of Adult Education, 16 June 1954 and 27 July 1954.
7. Reprint from Marriage hygiene November 1947 (1 p.) entitled
'The 'treatment of sex offenders' by Justice A.W. Foster, President, Victorian
Medico-Legal Society, Melbourne.
8. Procedures in the General Wages Case in Commonwealth Arbitration
Commission (19 pp,. typescript with manuscript annotations). Paper delivered by
J.R. Kerr, President of the Industrial Relations Society, as his Presidential
Address to the Third Annual Meeting, 16 August 1961.
9. Typescripts entitled 'Wages: summary' (2p.) and 'Wages' (6p.),
10. 'Economic causes of war', a talk by Judge Foster, ABC/3AR, 21
11. Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission special
session to pay tribute to the memory of the Hon. Mr Justice Alfred William
Foster, Melbourne, 4 December 1962.
12. Tribute to Alfred William Foster by Sir John Barry, 1962
1963, Updated February 2002