Guide to the Papers of Frederick J. Riley


MS 759

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 1977

Collection Summary

Riley, F. J. (Frederick John)
Papers of Frederick J. Riley
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 759
5.21 metres (70 ms boxes + 1 small folio box + 4 medium folio boxes + 2 map folios + 1 folio + 1 volume + 1 packet)
Language of Materials
Special Collections (Manuscripts)


Scope and Contents

MS 759 consists principally of correspondence, records, notes, reports, scrapbooks and photographs acquired by Riley whilst he was an executive of the Manufacturing Grocers' Employees' Federation of Australia, and an executive member of the Trades Hall Council, Australian Labor Party, Anti-Communist Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party. Also included are smaller collections of papers relating to the Socialist Federation of Australia, 1910; the anti-conscription campaign and the Australian Peace Alliance, 1916-1917; the general election, 1919; Wharf Labourers Women and Children's Relief Committee, 1919; 44 hour wage case, 1926; Y Club, 1918-1941; Dr William Maloney's Memorial Fund, 1941; Commonwealth Prices Commission, 1942-1948; Fred Riley's wife, the former Alice Ann Warburton, and his father Frederick Riley (70 boxes, 6 fol. boxes, 2 elephant folios).The Acc12.033 instalment comprises notes, photographs, letters, programmes, invitations, contribution lists (many containing handwritten notes), as well as item descriptions which were removed from the Library's pamphlet and printed ephemera collection documenting the Australian labour movement from the 1890s to the 1960s (2 folders).

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record ( for the access conditions.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Frederick J. Riley, National Library of Australia, MS 759, [series/file/box number]'.


F. J. Riley presented his large collection of personal papers, records of the Manufacturing Grocers' Employees' Federation of Australia, the Australian Labor Party and the Trades Hall Council, scrap books, pamphlets, photographs and newspapers to the National Library from 1949 until 1969. After his death in 1970, the residue of Riley's personal library joined the collection in accordance with his will, and the wishes of his widow, Mrs Anne E. Riley.

At that time Sir Harold White, National Librarian spoke of Riley's "diligent habit of assembling for us material relating to the history of the Australian Labor Party and of the Trade Union movement. Our collections have been enriched not only by his regular donations but also by his guidance in directing us to other sources. He made a further contribution through careful documentation of much that he sent us, adding significance to its research value. Many students have been and will continue to be grateful for his interest and work in the preservation of this aspect, of our history".

Other Finding Aids

There is a card index to correspondence in this collection. Please consult staff for further information (card index reference: MS 759, TW drawer 36).

Container List - Retrieval Advice

A concordance of box locations for the material in this collection is available; please consult the 'Container List' attached to this finding aid (under the Related Documentation heading).

Biographical Note

Frederick John (Fred) Riley who was born on 18 May 1886 in Stirling East, South Australia, was the son of Frederick Riley a blacksmith and political activist.

During his younger years F.J. Riley worked as a miner in Broken Hill, Cobar and Mt Morgan, and in the opal fields at White Cliffs. In 1914 he moved to Melbourne where he joined the North Fitzroy branch of the Australian Political Labour Party. He was secretary of the Australian Peace Alliance during the anti-conscription campaigns of 1916 and 1917.

Riley contested unsuccessfully the Federal electorate of Flinders at the 1919 general election. His successful opponent at this election was Stanley Melbourne (later Lord) Bruce. Riley was at this time a member of the Waterside Workers' Federation and during the strike of 1919 he worked with Alice Warburton on behalf of the Women and Children's Wharf Labourers' Relief Committee. Alice Warburton later became his wife.

From 1922 until 1961 Fred Riley was the Secretary of the Manufacturing Grocers' Employees' Federation of Australia, and after 1925 was the Federation delegate to the Trades Hall Council where he was President in 1931-1932. For 30 years until 1955 he was a member of the State executive of the Australian Labor Party. He was the Victorian President of the Party during the period 1941-1942. In 1942 he was appointed to the Commonwealth Prices Commission.

Riley joined the Barry-Coleman group in the Labor Party "split" in 1955 and in June of that year he contested unsuccessfully the Legislative Council elections as an A.L.P. (Anti-Communist) candidate for the Melbourne North Province. The A.L.P. (Anti-Communist) Party became known as the Democratic Labor Party in 1957 and Riley was its Victorian President during 1960-1961.

In 1961 Riley retired from his position as Secretary of the M.G.E.F.A., and died on 2 April 1970. He was survived by his second wife Anne.

Sources: Whos who in Australia, 1962; Riley Papers.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. General correspondence

Annual files contain Riley's correspondence as an official of the Manufacturing Grocers' Employees' Federation of Australia, the Australian Labor Party and the Trades Hall Council, together with his private correspondence. They cover the period from 1921 until 1952.

Series 2. Manufacturing Grocers' Employees' Federation of Australia

This large series contains correspondence files (1915-1922) and loose correspondence dating from 1933 until 1944; papers relating to the Inter-State Commission, Cost of Living Inquiry (1917), the Basic Wage Case (1920); the log of wages and working conditions of M.G.E.F.A. (1922), M.G.E.F.A.'s Claim against Parson's Bros and others, before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration (1925), against Robert Harper and others (1929 and 1940) and against the Victorian Chamber of Manufacturers (1942) resulting in the Manufacturing Grocers' Award of 1943. Other papers consist of M.G.E.F.A.'s evidence before the Victorian State Select Committee on Hours (1935), a collection of talks given on behalf of M.G.E.F.A. by Riley, S.C. Margetts and June Coe on radio station 3KZ (1932-1933 and 1952-1954), and circulars and other processed papers (1947-1956).

Series 3. Trades Hall Council

Riley was a delegate from the M.G.E.F.A. to the Melbourne Trades Hall Council from 1923 until 1961, and from 1925 was a member of its executive and disputes committee. The series consists of eighteen receipt books (1888-1909), four small cash books (1903-1904, 1905, 1907 and 1910-1912), one large cash book (1908-1916), a ledger (1905-1920) and the minute book of the THC Building Committee (1888-1907). Other items date from 1910 and include a folder of correspondence (1933-1944), papers relating to the Trades' Hall Girls' Club (1933-1950), National Safety Council, a survey entitled "Equal pay for the series" compiled by Murel Heagney for the A.C.T.U. in 1948 and papers dealing with Workers' compensation legislation.

Series 4. Australian Labor Party

The first record in this series is Riley's formal membership of the Australian Labor Party (called the Political Labor Party prior to 1925) when he joined the North Fitzroy Branch in 1914. From 1925 until 1955 he attended every annual Victorian State Conference as a member of the executive and chairman of the agenda committee. He was President of the State branch in 1941 and 1942. In 1955 Riley stood for the Legislative Council as an A.L.P. (Anti-Communist) Candidate, thus severing his long association with the A.L.P. His papers contain a large collection of records of the Federal Executive, the State Executive and branches in Victoria.

They are arranged in the following groupings:

Federal executive records - minutes of meetings (1915-1945); cash book (1915-1924); petty cash book (1919-1945); receipts slips (1930-1933 and 1934-1942); cheque butts (1926-1939); and papers of the Federal Labor Advisory Committee (1948-1949).

Victorian State Executive records: cash book (1930-1933); affiliated union index (n.d.); records of accounts of affiliated unions (1938); and records of accounts (1938-1947); correspondence (1928 and (1951).

Victorian branch records: South Carlton - minute book (1936-1938);

Coburg - minute books (1918-1922 and 1924-1937), accounts (1931-1939) and membership records (1927-1936); Collingwood - minute book (1913-1916); Fitzroy - minutes (1954-1955) and membership records (1948-1955); Dungaree - minutes of special meeting, April 1951, balance sheets and ticket books (1951 and 1952).

In addition there is material relating to the All Australian Congress (1919-1921), 10th Interstate Conference Melbourne (1924), and Ballot Box Arbitration case (1924). A large collection of processed and printed material is located at the end of the series; includes agenda papers for Federal and State Conferences, speakers' notes, pamphlets and leaflets.

Series 1 contains correspondence of the A.L.P. and should be used in association with this series.

Series 5. Socialist Federation of Australia

This series consists of the minute book of the conference of the Socialist Federation of Australia held in Melbourne on 25 June 1910. Riley was minute secretary at this conference.

Series 6. Anti-Conscription Campaign, 1916-1917

Letters, circulars, press cuttings and publications relating to the Anti-Conscription Campaigns in 1916 and 1917. Many of the papers are those of the Australian Peace Alliance, of which Riley was secretary. Included are five summonses which he received during 1917 for his part in Street Assemblies and distribution of literature.

Series 7. General Election, 1919

Riley, then a member of the Melbourne branch of the Waterside Workers' Federation was the ALP candidate for the seat of Flinders at the general election of 1919. S.M. (later Lord) Bruce won the seat for the Nationalist Party. The series consists of a small number of letters, pamphlets and press cuttings about Riley's Campaign in Flinders.

Series 8. Wharf Labourers' Women and Children's Relief Committee

This collection contains the correspondence files of the Committee set up during the strike of 1919 to assist the families of the wharf labourers. Mrs Alice Warburton (Later Mrs F.J. Riley) was secretary of the committee.

Series 9. 44 Hour Wage Case, 1926

Transcripts of evidence in the 44 hour Wage Case 1926, together with associated papers.

Series 10. J. Alderdice and Co. Pty. Ltd., 1926

Transcripts of evidence in the case of Amalgamated Engineering Union, Claimant and J. Alderdice and Co. Pty. Ltd. and others respondents before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, 1926.

Series 11. "Y" Club

An incomplete set of minutes of the "Y" Club dating from 1918 until 1941, lists of members and a pamphlet published for the "Y" Club in 1920 entitled Socialism and education by "Radix". Members met monthly in Melbourne, and after dinner were entertained by a speaker. Members included Alf. Foster, R.S. Ross, Maurice Blackburn, Guido Baracchi and F. J. Riley.

Series 12. Dr Maloney Memorial Fund

Dr William Maloney (1858-1940) was a medical practitioner, member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly (1889-1903) and a Member of the House of Representatives (1904-1940). He was an executive member of the Parliamentary Labor Party from 1914 until 1931. After Dr Maloney's death Riley and others set up a fund to endow a cot at the Children's Hospital, Carlton, in memory of their friend. The series contains letters and receipt books of the fund.

Series 13. Price Control

This small collection of papers relates to Riley's work on price control for both the Commonwealth and the Victorian Governments. From 1939 until 1954 he was a member of the Victorian Advisory Committee on Price Fixing, later known as the Prices Decontrol Advisory Committee. In January 1942 Riley was appointed an adviser to Professor (later Sir) Douglas Copland, Prices Commissioner for the Commonwealth; he resigned from this appointment in 1948.

The series contains minutes of five meetings of the Victorian Advisory Committee on Price Fixing held during October and November 1939, a small amount of correspondence between Riley and H.E. Bishop, C.E. Williamson, A.S.H. Gifford and W. Slater from 1942 until 1954; papers concerning the inquiry into fares, the nationalization of Gas and the Tasmanian Legislative Council's Inquiry on Price Control and a typescript copy of a report on the examination of price increases, 1940-1950. There are also a small number of letters from Douglas Copland; typescript copies of Riley's articles and broadcasts relating to his work as an adviser to the Commonwealth Prices Commission.

Series 14. Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist) and Democratic Labor Party

The papers in this series date from June 1955 when Riley contested unsuccessfully the Melbourne North Province in the Legislative Council elections on behalf of the Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist). In 1957 the Party became known as the Democratic Labor Party, and Riley was President of the Victorian branch from 1960 until 1961. The bulk of the series relates to this latter period and includes minutes of meetings of the Victorian State Conference (1958-1967), the country conference of 1966, the executive of the Party (1957-1962) together with circulars, (1957-1962) and drafts of Riley's speeches at this time.

Series 15. Miscellaneous papers

A small collection of general letters and papers received by Riley. Most date before 1925.

Series 16. Invitations, programs and Christmas cards

Series 17. Frederick Riley senior

A folder of papers and a scrap book kept by Frederick Riley of South Australia, Father of F.J. Riley. Explanatory notes accompany many of the items.

Series 18. Mrs Alice Riley

A small collection of letters written in 1917 to Alice A. Warburton (later Mrs F.J. Riley) when she was secretary of the Women's Socialist League, together with additional letters she received from until 1925-1930.

Series 7 contains further letters and papers relating to Alice Warburton's work as secretary of the Wharf Labourers' Women's and Children's Relief Committee.

Series 19. Scrap books

Seven scrap books (1907, 1913-1914(2), 1915(2), 1917-1918, 1923-1924 and a note book (1923-1929). Many of the books contain annotations by Riley in 1958.

Series 20. Photographs

A collection of photographs which include Studio studies of Riley; a group of delegates to the ALP Federal Conference Canberra 1927; the 8 hour Day Marches of 1909 and 1910, Anti-Conscription meetings, 1916, in Melbourne; and postcard photographs of Lakes Entrance, Buchan Caves and Orbost.

Series 21. Publications

The series contains 43 pamphlets published for the pocket library of socialism by Charles H. Kerr and Co. of Chicago; political pamphlets and leaflets relating to trade union subjects, and extracts from The Australasian Manufacturer (1926).

Series 22. Medals, ribbons and flags

Medals ribbons and flags relating to Riley's poltical activities. Some of them are accompanied by explanatory notes written by Riley.

Series. Material added 3.4.89

Letter from J.H. Scullin, 30 July 1946.