Guide to the Papers of Alfred William Foster


MS 805

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Alfred W. Foster
Papers of Alfred William Foster
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 805
0.15 metres (3 volumes, 1 envelope)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

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.

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Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.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 Alfred William Foster, National Library of Australia, MS 805, [series and/or file/item number]'.


The collection was donated to the Library by Mrs Moore, an associate to Justice Foster, in 1963.

Biographical Note

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. References: Who's who in Australia, 1962; Australian dictionary of biography (vol 8)

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Women's Employment Board

Memorandum to the Director-General of Manpower (Melbourne Branch) by C.M. Toop, Secretary (Women's Employment Board), 11 May 1943 (21pp., typescript) (Item 1)

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)

Information requested by the Board of Economic Warfare on the manpower situation in Australia, no date (9pp., typescript) (Item 2)

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.

Untitled typescript, no date (end of 1944 or early 1945) (11 pp.) (Item 3)

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.

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) (Item 4)

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 further regulations.

A brief account of the activities of the Women's Employment Board, 8 June 1943 (8pp. typescript) (Item 5)

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.

The Women's Employment Board – a national emergency man power scheme, no date (3pp. typescript) (Item 6)

Page one is headed "Chairman". The report is limited to the reasons for establishment of the Board.

Women's Employment Board. (W.E.B) Judgements (Item 7)

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

Notes for an address entitled 'Can arbitration succeed?' delivered to the Legacy Club (Melbourne), 15 May 1956 and related correspondence (Item 1)

Newspaper cutting from The Sentinel p.5, no date (probably 1945). Report of an address by Foster at the grave of Maurice Blackburn (first annual commemoration) (Item 2)

Notes on Foster's address to the Constitutional Club, 13 October 1947 (typescript, 3pp. and manuscript draft, 4pp.) (Item 3)

Election pamphlet (4pp.) on the Balaclava Federal Election, 5 May 1917 in support of the election of Alfred W. Foster, selected Labor candidate (Item 4)

Typed letter (signed) by Rev. Irving Benson to Foster, 3 January 1956. Also typescript of 'Can arbitration work?', (13pp., with manuscript alterations) (Item 5)

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 (Item 6)

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 (Item 7)

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. (Item 8)

Typescripts entitled 'Wages: summary' (2p.) and 'Wages' (6p.), n.d. (Item 9)

'Economic causes of war', a talk by Judge Foster, ABC/3AR, 21 October 1935 (Item 10)

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. (Item 11)

Tribute to Alfred William Foster by Sir John Barry, 1962 (Item 12)